Jul 15, 2009


AutherSkwerl recommended that I do a post on siphonophores, so here we go. Say hello to some siphonophores. Siphonophores are closely related to jellyfish, and are often mistaken for them (as is the case with the Portuguese man o' war (see below), which is a siphonophore, not a jellyfish).

Photo source: Baasch.org

Some of the 175 described species of siphonophores can be found idly drifting along, looking for food to come to them (a behavior I'm very often engaged in), most are active predators. They can be enormous, some over 120 feet long, while others can be bioluminescent. All are fragile and can be dashed to pieces by strong currents or impacts. Some deep sea varieties sport dark orange or red digestive systems that can be seen through their clear, gelatinous exteriors (see below).

Photo source: NOAA.gov

I've known some people who are disturbingly like the siphonophore. They spend so much time indoors that their skin becomes translucent (dare I say, gelatinous), and you can begin to perceive their innards. They are drift hunters, and their only active hunting comes in the form of nighttime forays to nearby fast food joints or pestering their mothers into buying frozen goods for them.

Thanks for helping us round out the jellyfish family tree, AutherSkwerl.


Sabina E. said...

nice... i've never even heard of this.

Unknown said...

I was stung by a Portuguese Man o War once -- in New Jersey, in late September when the Gulf Stream can bring them in close to shore.

Man, that HURT -- like having a red hot poker held to your skin.

The most effective First Aid we could find was to use Adolf's Meat Tenderizer, which is mostly made from Papaya. That has an enzyme (papayin) that breaks down proteins very effectively... and the siphonophore sting is made of protein.

Anonymous said...

Really amazing it's a wonderful discovery.People should aware of this.


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Anonymous said...

These things aren't really creatures, but colonies of creatures, each so specialized to its task that it couldn't live outside the colony. Each one is so dependent on the others in the colony, siphonophores ride the line between colony and a multi-cellular creature.

Raging Wombat said...

I wonder about the colony-dwelling creature who, when the sign up sheet was being passed around, chose the "red creature needed at end of digest tract" slot. Maybe the property taxes are cheaper downstream...

Anonymous said...

We are all colonies. What we think of as our "human" cells, are outnumbered (1 to 10) by the number of bacteria, protozoa, viruses, and other little beasties that live in and on our body in mutual parasitism.

To quote "the American Society for Microbiology":

"This (seeing ourselves as colonies - my note) could be the basis of a whole new way of looking at disease. In order to understand how changes in normal bacterial populations affect or are affected by disease we first have to establish what normal is or if normal even exists," says Margaret McFall Ngai of the University of Wisconsin, Madison.

Researchers have long suspected and researched the role that beneficial microbial communities within humans, known collectively as the human microbiome, play in health and disease but only recently has molecular technology reached the point where they can truly begin to identify and characterize all the species that make up an individual's microbiome.

I find being part of the human microbiome somewhat freeing in that I can now blame any bad behavior on my part on those darned non-human inhabitants of "my" body. They so outnumber me that they always win the popular vote.


Gosaimas said...

Ohoh, thanks so much for sharing this! When I was a child I found loads of this creatures liying on the seashore on a beach and I didn´t know if they were jellyfishes or silicone breast implants lost from some boat. Now the mistery is solved! Thanks a lot!