A few years ago, I was canoeing along a placid lake in North Georgia when I peered into the dark water and beheld quarter-sized translucent jellyfish! I blinked a few times and then cautiously scooped a few of the little jellies into a glass container. I wondered, quite seriously, if I had discovered something new, for who would imagine jellyfish in a lake hours away from any ocean. I had in fact stumbled across a colony of Freshwater Appalachian Mountain Jellyfish!
As it turns out, a single rare species of jellyfish exists in the rivers, lakes, and ponds of the Southern Appalachian Mountains. The Freshwater Appalachian Mountain Jellyfish go by the scientific name of Craspedacusta sowerbyi and are found in wide dispersion across the Southern United States. Although sightings are few and far between, do not be surprised to observe these miniature ghost-like Freshwater Jellyfish bobbing up and down in bodies of fresh-water.
As with all jellyfish, the Freshwater Jellyfish starts off as a polyp; a stationary creature that is attached to a rock until it captures enough prey to mature. The polyp may create new colonies by “budding,” and this continues until an individual polyp reaches the medusa stage – a sexually mature, mobile jellyfish.
Freshwater Appalachian Mountain Jellyfish are almost microscopic when they begin swimming. It may take a Freshwater Jellyfish several years to reach the medusa stage and then it will take them another three weeks to reach a length of a quarter and a half. Freshwater Jellyfish never get much bigger in diameter than the size of a coin. By the time the Freshwater Jellyfish reaches this size, it becomes sexually active and will release sperm and eggs into the water to commence fertilization.
Freshwater Jellyfish do have tentacles and they can sting – it enables the Freshwater Jellyfish to capture prey! The Freshwater Jellyfish will swim upwards to the surface of the water and as they sink, they extend their tentacles in an attempt to zap unsuspecting protozoan and other microscopic food sources. Luckily, the tentacles of the Freshwater Appalachian Mountain Jellyfish produce too small a shock for humans to feel.