How do you like your eggs? If the answer is, ‘fried, salty, and weirdly pulsing with life’ then read on.
With its yellow dome sitting on top of a smooth translucent bell, the fried egg jellyfish, Cotylorhiza tuberculata, bears an uncanny resemblance to the popular breakfast item.
Beneath this egg-like bell is a frilly, ruffled ‘underskirt’ of trailing appendages. Some are tipped with purple blobs that house zooxanthellae, the same symbiotic algae that give certain corals their characteristic hue. The symbiotic organisms receive a place to live, and in return, generate energy for their hosts via photosynthesis.
The fried egg jellyfish feeds on tiny aquatic organisms, such as zooplankton and phytoplankton, which it ingests via specialised tentacles called oral arms. It is common in the Mediterranean, Aegean, and Adriatic Seas, where the adult form can grow up to 35cm across.
Vast blooms of it can appear during the summer and autumn months, which can be an annoyance for swimmers. We should be more tolerant. The jellyfish’s sting has little or no effect on humans, and the blobby invertebrate could even prove to be our ally.
An extract derived from the fried egg jellyfish has been shown to possess anticancer activity. So maybe one day, we will learn to love them;not just for their looks, but for their pharmaceutical value too.