jellyfish

Cnidarians Known as Hydroids: Animals Looking Like Plants

Once again we dive into Cnidaria, a large phylum that contains approximately 10,000 species. Phylum members include many animals that attract attention because of their bright colors: sea anemones, corals, sea pens, gorgonians and jellyfish. These creatures can afford to flaunt their beauty because most of them have defensive polyps loaded with nematocysts (also called cnidocytes) that can fire venomous miniature harpoons. Lucky for us, most of these weapons are too tiny to penetrate our skin. Cnidarians currently belong to one of four classes: Anthozoa […]

Not Your Average Anemones: Examining Unusual Species

We’ve discussed cnidarians in this column several times and will likely do so many more. There are about 10,000 species in this phylum and since most of them live in the ocean, divers encounter them all the time. Many are photogenic, which is why my files are full of their images. The two forms of cnidarians, polyps and medusae, are, according to The Shape of Life, “essentially mirrors of each other.” Polyps (i.e., anemones) are attached to a surface on one end by the pedal […]

The Bizarre World of Pelagic Invertebrates

I have come to view the oceans as an immense bowl of salty soup. Billions of creatures ride its currents, some visible to the naked eye, but many so tiny they can only be seen under a microscope. Some creatures will eventually settle down and live their adult lives far from where they started out. Others will spend their entire lives offshore. The latter — in particular invertebrates that spend their lives adrift in the ocean — is what this article is about. Many are […]

California’s Undersea Flower Animals: The Stony Corals

It’s a fact stranger than fiction: there are underwater creatures commonly found in the Pacific Ocean off the California coast that are biologically classified as “flower animals.” The class is Anthozoa, formed from two Greek words, anthos, meaning “flower” and zoa, meaning “animals,” and it contains the stony corals. Anthozoa is a class within the photogenic phylum Cnidaria (the “C” is silent), which means “nettle” in Greek. Besides corals, phylum members include sea anemones, sea pens, gorgonians, jellyfishes and hydroids. Cnidarians have two forms, polyps […]

Pretty But Poorly Understood Polyps: Sea Anemones

Among the approximately 10,000 species that belong to the phylum Cnidaria (the ‚ “C” is silent), there are at least 100 that are dangerous to humans. The phylum name means “nettle” in Greek and its members include sea anemones, corals, sea pens, gorgonians, jellyfishes and hydroids. Most of them are carnivores and most have nematocysts, which are used for defense and catching food. Fortunately, sea anemones are not dangerous to humans; their tiny harpoons (nematocysts) cannot penetrate deep enough into our skin to deliver toxin […]

Gorgonian Corals: Admiring California’s Sea Fans

Gorgonian corals, known as sea fans and also called horny corals, belong to the Phylum Cnidaria (the “C” is silent), which means “nettle” in Greek and includes hydroids, anemones, jellyfish and corals. All cnidarians are carnivores and their tentacles contain tiny harpoons (nematocysts) that can be fired to repel predators and catch food.  There are two cnidarian forms, polyps and medusae. Polyps are attached to a surface on one end by the pedal disk, while the oral disk at the other end is unattached and […]

Good, Better, Best

Few places on earth are as inviting as a California kelp forest in autumn. When diving conditions are favorable, as they so often are in the fall, we enjoy a wonderful opportunity to observe a diverse mix of as many as 800 species of marine creatures in an absolutely stunning setting. We have it all from playful herds of California sea lions to schools of silvery jackmackerel making their way through the forest maze to a dazzlingly colorful exhibition of rainbow colored nudibranchs on the […]

The Spice of the California Diving Experience

Mention California diving and the first thoughts of divers around the world are likely to be about our kelp forests. Their reaction is proof that just seeing a photograph of shimmering rays of sunlight dance through a golden undersea forest can get you hooked on California diving. And as so many California divers know, exploring a kelp forest in real life is a magical experience.   More than 800 species have been documented to inhabit a healthy forest of giant kelp. Those creatures include the […]

Fried Eggs for Breakfast at La Jolla Shores

La Jolla Shores is a popular beach located near San Diego. Besides being a great spot for teaching scuba, it is also very popular with many local and visiting divers. Although it doesn’t have the most beautiful underwater topography, it does have a nice variety of fish and invertebrate life living in and on its sand and mud bottom. There seem to be creatures that you can almost always find at home here, like various nudibranchs and other invertebrates such as crabs or shrimp. There […]

Alien Creatures Of The Deep

As we head out of San Diego’s Mission Bay on a bright and sunny day, it’s the ocean conditions that will determine the dive site today. If conditions aren’t just right it will mean a kelp forest or wreck dive. There’s nothing wrong with that, but what we are hoping for is a dive experience that is quite a bit different, an open ocean dive! What we’re looking for way out in the “Big Blue,” isn’t fish or mammals, but pelagic invertebrates. Conditions are looking […]

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