Last updated on April 21, 2014 at 10:19 EDT

Atlantic Sea Nettle

The Atlantic Sea Nettle, (Chrysaora quinquecirrha), also known as the East Coast Sea Nettle, is a species of jellyfish that is found in the Atlantic estuaries, such as Chesapeake Bay. It is similar to the Pacific Sea Nettle, however it is smaller and has more color variation.

This bell-shaped invertebrate is typically semi-transparent and has small white dots and reddish-brown stripes. If the stripes are not present, the bell (body) appears white or opaque. Otherwise, it is typically pale, pinkish or yellowish in color. Its mouth is located at the center of one end of the body, which opens to a gastrovascular (contributing to both digestion and respiration) cavity. Tentacles surround the mouth to capture food. This sea nettle, like other nettles, has no excretory or respiratory organs. There are two stages in which the nettle lives: a free-swimming stage which reproduces sexually; and a polyp stage which reproduces asexually.

The sting of the Atlantic Sea Nettle is moderate to severe and can injure and/or kill smaller prey. However, it is not generally harmful to humans, except for causing allergic reaction. While not harmful to humans, the sting can cause moderate discomfort. The sting can be effectively neutralized by misting vinegar over the affected area. This keeps unfired nematocysts from causing additional discomfort.

Each tentacle on the nettle is coated with thousands of microscopic cnidocytes, each of which has a trigger paired with a capsule containing a coiled stinging filament. Upon contact, the trigger (cnidocil) will immediately initiate a process which ejects the venom-coated filament from its capsule and into the target.

These stinging sea nettles are carnivorous and generally feed on zooplankton, ctenophores, other species of jellyfish, and occasionally crustaceans. The stinging tentacles are used to immobilize the prey, after which it is transported to the gastrovascular cavity where it is digested. Its diet consists mainly of minnows, anchovy eggs, worms, and mosquito larvae.

Atlantic Sea Nettle