Background Info

White-spotted jellies are native to the warm, tropical waters of the western Pacific Ocean, from Oceania through East Asia. The jellies in this photograph were swimming near the Philippines.

White-spotted jellies have very mild venom and do not pose a threat to human beings. In fact, these jellies do not generally use their venom to capture food at all. Instead, white-spotted jellies are filter feeders, like oysters or sponges. They can filter more than 50 cubic meters (1,766 cubic feet) of seawater every day!

Microscopic zooplankton are the main food source for white-spotted jellies. Plankton are a key part of the entire marine food web. Because white-spotted jellies often travel in large groups called swarms or smacks, they can disrupt the entire ecosystem of an area by consuming almost all the plankton. Fish, crustaceans, and marine mammals may not be able to find sufficient food in an area with swarms of white-spotted jellies.

This is especially true where white-spotted jellies are an invasive species. These areas are not home to the marine snails that prey on the jellies in their native habitat. Swarms of white-spotted jellies have impacted ecosystems in the Gulf of California, Gulf of Mexico, and Caribbean Sea.

For Further Exploration

Vocabulary

Term Part of Speech Definition Encyclopedic Entry

ecosystem

Noun

community and interactions of living and nonliving things in an area.

Encyclopedic Entry: ecosystem

filter

Verb

to remove particles from a substance by passing the substance through a screen or other material that catches larger particles and lets the rest of the substance pass through.

filter feeder

Noun

aquatic animal that strains nutrients from water.

food

Noun

material, usually of plant or animal origin, that living organisms use to obtain nutrients.

Encyclopedic Entry: food

food web

Noun

all related food chains in an ecosystem. Also called a food cycle.

Encyclopedic Entry: food web

habitat

Noun

environment where an organism lives throughout the year or for shorter periods of time.

Encyclopedic Entry: habitat

invasive species

Noun

type of plant or animal that is not indigenous to a particular area and causes economic or environmental harm.

Encyclopedic Entry: invasive species

jellyfish

Noun

type of marine animal, not a fish, with a soft body and stinging tentacles.

microscopic

Adjective

very small.

tropical

Adjective

existing in the tropics, the latitudes between the Tropic of Cancer in the north and the Tropic of Capricorn in the south.

venom

Noun

poison fluid made in the bodies of some organisms and secreted for hunting or protection.

zooplankton

noun, plural noun

microscopic organism that lives in the ocean.

Credits

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Photographer

Christopher Diaz

Producer

Caryl-Sue, National Geographic Society

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