Friday, 22 April 2011

S is for Sea Gooseberry – that is what S is for ...

"Ctenophorae" from
Ernst Haeckel’s
Kunstformen der Natur,
1904
We’re not quite there yet – but in late summer or early autumn, balls of colourless jelly the size of a gooseberry are washed up on the shores all around the British Isles.


They are also known as comb jellies and have wondrous qualities that are quite honestly amazing – nature is wonderful.  If sea gooseberries are dropped into a rock pool or a jar of sea water, eight rows of iridescent plates and pair of trailing tentacles become visible.


These plates are used to propel the sea gooseberry in the water, while the tentacles capture plankton, often herring larvae, drawing the plankton up into its mouth, which is on the underside of its body.



Light diffracting along
the comb rows
The right lower portion of the
body is regenerating from
previous damage.  
The comb rows produce a rainbow effect, which is not caused by bioluminescence, but by the scattering of light as the combs move.


Their chief enemy is a related species, whose diet is almost entirely sea gooseberries, and is itself eaten by cod.  Almost all Ctenophores (comb jellies) are predators .... preying on the others  in the food chain, or other plankton.


All sea gooseberries are hermaphrodites which cross-fertilise one another to produce the next generation of larvae.


While we’re at it ...S for shock extra information too! ...  I had always thought plankton were microscopic plants ... but in fact plankton refer to any drifting organisms – animals, plants, archaea (single-celled organisms) or bacteria that inhabit the upper layers of open water bodies.


Sea Gooseberry
Sea gooseberries is a generic name for a very prehistoric ancestor – and that the group Ctenophores came into existence after the sponges, but before the sea anemones and corals, which have a ‘sister’ lineage of the jellyfish and hydras.  


It is thought that the common ancestor of modern ctenophores was relatively recent, and perhaps was lucky enough to survive the Cretaceous-Tertiary extinction 65.5 million years ago, while other lineages perished.


This large-scale mass extinction of animal and plant species in a geologically extremely short space of time is believed to have created a major boundary in life’s existence and lead to a massive disruption in Earth’s ecology.


Who thought that a simple creature such as a Sea Gooseberry would provide such interesting information ...  or that we would travel in time so far ... or that I would stretch the British connection a little ...


This is Sea Gooseberry    that is what S is for ..

Part of the ABC - April 2011 - A - Z Challenge - Aspects of the British Countryside

Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories

21 comments:

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I've never seen a sea gooseberry, but then I'm probably in the wrong location. Don't see a lot of jellyfish on our beaches.

Jenny said...

Interesting post! I was glad to find you via A to Z.

~Sia McKye~ said...

I've not heard of Sea Gooseberries before. Some lovely photos of them. Like you I thought plankton was a plant, hmmm. Learned something new.

Madeleine said...

They look rather light lightbulbs and blow up beach balls! :O)

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Alex .. you're lucky you don't see jellyfish .. there is a proliferation of them. I'm sure sea gooseberries are around the Pacific coast ..

@ Jenny .. many thanks .. this was a little different - good to see you here ..

@ Sia .. nor had I - hence I posted and then found they're very interesting .. well to my mind! Then the plankton .. surprisingly ..

@ Madeleine .. they do - you're right .. but they're combs and gooseberries??!!

Thanks to you all .. I was rather partial to the idea of sea gooseberries .. then got a little carried away with the extra info!

Have peaceful Good Fridays .. and a happy sunny Saturday tomorrow .. well if you're lucky like us right now! Cheers Hilary

Short Poems said...

Lovely post and beautiful images, Hilary!

Happy Easter!
Marinela x x

Raining Acorns said...

The story of the sea gooseberry is fascinating. Thank you.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Marinela .. - you too .. glad you enjoyed the post and the picx ..

@ Raining Acorns .. delighted that you learnt something - it is fascinating ..

Happy Saturdays .. cheers Hilary

Sheila Deeth said...

Wow! That was fascinating!

rosaria said...

Enjoyed the post immensely.

Munir said...

We had something like a sea gooseberry and I thought that was a sea erchin from New Jersey Waters.
Happy Easter to you and your loved ones.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Sheila .. delighted you enjoyed the post - creatures of this world never cease to amaze me - as you say too!

@ Rosaria .. good to hear it - thanks

@ Munir .. I'm not sure if they eat these .. but I'm sure there are many similar creatures that you would find in the New Jersey waters to eat.

Thank you for your Easter wishes .. the same to you and your family

Happy Easter everyone and have a lovely weekend .. thanks for coming by .. Hilary

Empty Nest Insider said...

Thanks for shedding light on the sea gooseberry! As always, a very informative post with remarkable photos! Julie

Hold my hand: a social worker's blog said...

Oh my goodness, that's really interesting. I've never heard of Sea Gooseberries before, but this is certainly a great learning. I also thought that plankton were plants, good that you clarified.

Hilary, I love your posts. They are fascinating.

Happy Easter, my friend!

Doris

Sharon K. Mayhew said...

I was sure your post was going to be about some kind of seaweed with little bubbles that looked like gooseberries on them. I didn't realize they were animals related to jellyfish. What a surprise!

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Julie .. many thanks - a little different!! Photos courtesy Wikipedia .. just so lucky they're there .. glad you enjoyed reading about them ..

@ Doris .. nor had I - so I thought .. ok good subject for me to learn about too! Thanks - I'm glad I put the plankton bit in ..

Doris .. delighted you're enjoying the reads .. we live in a fascinating world, let alone little island here!

Julie and Doris .. hope you have lovely breaks .. cheers Hilary

LTM said...

ahh... the jellies. And S should be for stinger, too! We get the not so attractive clear kind with the mile-long tentacles. OK, not a mile, but it sure seems that way.

They are pretty, though~ :o)

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Leigh .. ahhh .. nooooo .. jellies be jellies - these be different and of an older species! These be Ctenophores .. not stingers and not deadly!

But as you say comb jellies, as they can be known, are an important food source within the Oceans.

I love the way the comb seems to work its magic ... the light diffracting ..

Thanks - hope the house hunting has gone well .. must pop over to see .. enjoy Easter .. Hilary

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Sharon .. almost missed you .. little gooseberry bubbles on seaweed .. interesting combination!

Honestly .. this earth has so much going for it .. and we have no idea how everything inter-relates .. it is extraordinary .. this has been a fun post .. glad I did it ..

So delighted you were surprised!

Thanks - have a lovely weekend .. Hilary

Michelle Teacress said...

Beautiful. I never knew there were jellies with a name like gooseberry. :)

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Michelle .. yes sort of large primitive jellies .. but so valuable in the food chain .. good description of them though - well looking at the picture I used to post!

Good to see you - have a good week ..
Hilary