What a find! My son and I recently hit the jackpot while exploring the tidal Slocum River on Massachusetts’s southern coast. There in the brackish water, among feeding barnacles and clam siphons protruding from the muddy bottom, we spied them: floating, iridescent, pulsating jellies! At first one, then two, and when our eyes adjusted to deciphering clear bodies in the water column, twenty or more. They ranged from dime-sized to golf-ball sized and we watched them, mesmerized, until hunger sent us in search of lunch.
I later learned that comb jellies are not jellyfish. Though they share some characteristics—like gelatinous bodies made of two major cell layers—these ancient creatures hail from distinct phyla: comb jellies are ctenophores, jellyfish are cnidarians. Comb jellies are propelled through the water not by propulsion, but by the action of thousands of tiny cilia that line their bodies. When light is refracted by the moving cilia it results in a beautiful rainbow of pulsating light.
This journal page is my attempt to capture the experience and also serves as field notes for learning about comb jellies. (Stillman & Birn Beta journal, 5.5×8.5, watercolor, ink, and alcohol to create the textural effect.)
How beautiful Jean, who knew? Your page is very watery and dream like. You captured your treasures wonderfully. Hope you are having a wonderful time with your family. XO
Thanks Cindy! I’ve been poking in tide pools for 13 years and never saw these before! Very exciting!
I’ve seen these things drift by the dock I occasionally hang out on in Rhode Island but never investigated further. Interesting to learn more about them! Love the image from your journal!
Great! It was cool to see some of them pulsing irredescently! They’re easy to overlook when they are just drifting around.