Animal news: a new m.o. for stinging jelly fish

Actually, I don’t know whether this is new. What I mean is, new to me. For all I know these very pretty jellyfish have been firing their stinging cells for millions of years.

It’s just…you know. How much weird and alarming animal news can one person (who reads the Times and does this blog) take?

Where can you locate such jellyfish if you want to do some eco-tourism swimming? In the Caribbean, in the Gulf, off the coast of Florida. The places you anti-winter people fly down to for your annual efforts at growing melanomas.

Me? I love winter, I’ve been stung by jellyfish — the sort that rub themselves up against you and do what they do, and I didn’t like it at all.

The initial paragraphs of this oddly entertaining New York Times article may be the closest you want to get to these upside down jellyfish. Ergo, as a service…

Jellyfish are very sneaky about stinging. Most are silent. Some have venom that kicks in on a time delay. Many species even manage to get in a few zingers after they’re dead.

But according to research published Thursday in Communications Biology, the stealthiest stinging strategy belongs to Cassiopea xamachana, a species of upside-down jellyfish found in the Caribbean Sea, the Gulf of Mexico, and warm parts of the Western Atlantic like the Florida Keys. When disturbed, this creature acts like a space-movie mother ship — it emits tiny balls of stinging cells that then swim around on their own, zapping anything in their path.

These “self-propelling microscopic grenades,” which the researchers have named cassiosomes, also appear to stun and kill prey for the jellyfish, said Cheryl Ames, an associate professor at Tohoku University in Japan and lead author of the study.

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