JellyFish Facts

Jellyfish Movement

Jellyfish Movement picture

Jellyfish Movement

When watching a jellyfish move so majestically through the water it may make some people wonder just how they achieve this movement in the first place considering they do not have any fins or arms. In fact the majority of jellyfish species are actually unable to swim and instead float.

Jellyfish achieve movement by both floatation and relying on the oceans currents and winds. Those jellyfish which can swim do so using a form of jet propulsion in order to allow them to move throughout the water. Jellyfish move by squeezing their bodies so that jets of water from the bottom of their bodies are pushed out which in turn causes the jellyfish to be propelled forward. The comb jelly on the other hand actually has cilia which are similar to hairs and it uses these cilia as a means to row through the water rather than depend on the currents for its direction and movement.

Despite what may be common belief the tentacles of jellyfish are not involved at all in the swimming or movement action of the jellyfish. These tentacles are used only for gathering food and stinging potential attackers. When a jellyfish is attempting to move it will contract their body using a network of nerves which controls many muscles of their body. This contracting motion will in turn force jet of water to be forced out in one particular direction and then this jet of water will push the jellyfish forward in the opposite directions of the water.

The Portuguese man of war jellyfish and others such as the "by the sea sailor" move in a rather peculiar way which is rather intriguing to witness. These jellyfish do not swim under the water, nor do they really float throughout it, instead these jellyfish prefer to float above it. These jellyfish actually float on the surface of the water and use their body as a floatation device and also sail in order to capture the wind and move themselves around.

Watching a jellyfish can be quite hypnotic and can sometimes be likened to watching a lava lamp. They move so slowly yet gracefully. There are some jellyfish that can swim and do so at rather impressive speeds. All members of the box jellyfish family have the ability to swim. One member of the box jellyfish family known as the sea wasp has been recorded at swimming up three knots or 3.35 miles per hour. Considering most jellyfish drift through the waters with little or no control over their direction the sea wasp is a very quick and intimidating jellyfish to encounter. When in the water swimmers may unintentionally attract a jellyfish to themselves by the simple act of playing in the water. Waving your hands about and kicking your legs around under the water will disrupt the current and activity of the water around you and move anything in that water off of its original course. Think of it as a stick floating on the water, if you were to put your hand under the water where the stick is floating and wave it around you will see the stick move about, this is what happens with a jellyfish.

For more information on jellyfish and their movement abilities please refer to our Jellyfish Information Section.

Learn more about Jellyfish, different Jellyfish Species, general Jellyfish Information, Jellyfish Pets and Jellyfish Safety




Written by and Sudarsana Sinha.

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