The Question: I saw a couple of clear jelly blobs at the beach and am trying to figure out what they are. They look just like the pictures of beached sea gooseberries, round with faint inner stripes and the diameter is about the size of a half-dollar. No tentacles, though. And from what I’ve read, gooseberries are only found on the west coast. These were found at the beach in Ogunquit, Maine. They don’t match the description or images of the Moon Jelly in your other post, either (moon jellies). Any ideas??
Submitted by: Sara, Maine, USA
(click on photos and graphics to expand)
The Short Answer: Sea gooseberries are found all over the world. What might be confusing you is that one species, Pleurobrachia bachei, has a Wikipedia entry that comes up high in “sea gooseberry” searches. As the article states, P. bachei is, in fact, only found in the Pacific. But other closely related species are definitely found in Maine. As for the tentacles, they often get broken off, or disintegrate when gooseberries are washed up on the beach.
More Information: Sea gooseberries are small gelatinous marine creatures that seem similar to jellyfish (phylum Cnideria). Sea gooseberries are members of the phylum Ctenophora, the “comb jellies.” Despite the similar appearance, comb jellies and jellyfish are in different phyla – a major taxonomic and evolutionary distinction – which suggests that sea gooseberries and jellyfish are not closely related. Like many jellyfish, however, comb jellies capture microorganisms floating in sea water. Though there aren’t many Ctenophores in the world, with only a couple hundred species, some can reach high local densities and when they do, many end up washed up on beaches.
Here’s a very cool video showing swimming sea gooseberries at the Vancouver Aquarium: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fOJJxnNL4SY
Photo Credits: Gooseberry: “Stachelbeeren”. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons –http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Stachelbeeren.jpg#/media/File:Stachelbeeren.jpg