Summer was always Florida time during the last eleven years in Japan. Fortunate enough to have six weeks free in July and August, New Smyrna Beach was my longed for holiday retreat. Now, since the first of May my tag has changed from visitor to resident. Don’t ask me why, but the new ‘residential’ perspective on things is a little different. One of the differences is a sharper eye for the many creatures large and small living in this climate, this environment. Discovered numbers of these “blue button” jellyfish-lookalikes today.
I noticed wide patches of these half-dollar sized Hydrozoa washed up on the beach this morning. At first, they looked like rusted bottle caps sitting in small pools of blue-green ink. That is the appearance of the hydroids, which resemble filament-thin tentacles. Looking closely at one, poking at it, flipping it over, I figured them for a kind of jellyfish.
Porpita porpita is not one animal, but an entire colony of hydroids, classed as Hydrozoan and related to the jellyfish and corals. It lives on the surface of the sea, at the mercy of wind and tide currents. Though small, the numerous branchlets of its hydra-tentacles each end in a knob of stinging cells. Stinging cells they may be, but the science book says they do not sting, though touching them can cause skin irritation. Because of its size it is easy prey for many other kinds of sea life. Drifting passively, it feeds on both living and dead organisms it comes in contact with. It has a single mouth which is used for both the intake of nutrients and the expulsion of wastes.
I also noticed on the beach this morning, two turtle nests freshly roped off by the turtle rangers stationed up the beach. These two may be the first nests of the egg laying season. First I’ve seen anyway.