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15 Facts About the Lion’s Mane Jellyfish

The stunning—and stinging—lion’s mane jellyfish (Cyanea capillata) ranks among earth’s most beautiful creatures. Let's tip our scuba masks to this amazing invertebrate.

1. It Can Grow Up to 120 Feet Long.

By comparison, the largest recorded blue whale was a paltry 108 feet long. But don’t go around calling this jellyfish the world’s longest animal. Some marine biologists claim the saltwater bootlace worm (Lineus longissimus) deserves that title—when fully extended, it can stretch 180 feet from end to end!

2. It Eats and Expels Waste Through the Same Orifice.

Jellyfish have a very special opening designed to perform double-duty as both a mouth and an anus. At least they’re economical.

3. It Isn’t Immune to Predation.

As you can see in this clip (filmed by National Geographic), lion’s mane jellyfish need to watch their backs around famished anemones. Also, leatherback sea turtles have been seen gobbling them up off the coasts of Canada. The reptiles' throats contain backward-pointing spikes called oral papillae to help move food in the direction of the stomach; they also make escaping pretty difficult.

4. Lion’s Mane Jellyfish Come in a Variety of Colors.

Large individuals are often red or purple, while smaller specimens tend to be shades of tannish-orange.

5. A Single Specimen May Have Stung Over 50 People.

June 16, 2010 was a weird day for New England beach-goers. Somewhere between 50 and 100 swimmers were stung off the coasts of Rye, New Hampshire and, when a 40-pound lion’s mane corpse was found at the scene, the authorities felt they’d found their perpetrator. But could a solitary jellyfish really inflict so much mayhem?

“It’s certainly not common,” marine biologist Sean Colin told LiveScience, “but it’s certainly within the realm of possibility because they do have so many tentacles if they’re that large.” Colin hypothesizes that, since dead jellies can still sting, maybe the body was broken up into several large chunks which spread out and contacted unsuspecting visitors. We’ll probably never know for sure.

6. These Guys Can Have up to 1200 Tentacles.

These are arranged in eight sets that contain between 70 and 150 individual tentacles apiece. Now there’s some Grade-A nightmare fuel…

7. Unfortunately, a Famous Picture was Faked.

As far as being awesome is concerned, nature doesn’t need the Internet’s help. Perhaps you’ve seen this photo, which happens to be Google Images’ number one search result for “giant jellyfish.” Many blogs and news sites have claimed that this thing is an especially-large lion’s mane jellyfish. But so far as we know, this species has a maximum diameter of only seven and a half feet—far smaller than the monster pictured here. What gives? As you might have guessed, it's Photoshopped.

8. It Makes Do With a Year-Long Lifespan.

Believe it or not, one type of jellyfish may be functionally immortal. Sadly, the lion’s mane jelly doesn’t follow suit.

9. The Lion’s Mane Jellyfish Like it Cold.

Geir Friestad, Flickr

Frequent denizens of harsh, Arctic waters, lion’s mane jellyfish are seldom seen below the northern 42nd parallel. Also, they gravitate towards the surface and almost never venture beneath depths of 66 feet.

10. Like Other Jellyfish, It Reproduces Both Sexually and Asexually.

Jellies take on several forms in their complicated life cycles. Upon entering what’s called the “medusa” stage and becoming “adults,” they can reproduce by releasing sperm and eggs. However, as stationary entities rooted to the ocean floor while in the “polyp” stage, they’re capable of asexually cloning themselves.

11. Also Like Other Jellyfish, It (Technically) Lacks a Brain.

Derek Keats, Flickr

In all fairness, contrary to popular belief, these animals do have central nervous systems—a ring of nerves can be found nestled in their “hoods” (or “bells”). So there.

12. Some Scientists Think That Their Population is Booming

Though the jury’s still out, many have argued that—due to factors like over-fishing and rising global sea temperatures—jellyfish numbers may be skyrocketing. Who knows? If true, this might mean we’ll all start munching on more dried jellies at seafood restaurants.

13. Lion’s Mane Jellies Tend to Group Up.

A.Davey, Flickr

C. capillata sometimes swim together in huge, kilometer-wide clusters called “shoals.”

14. Schools of Fishes Often Surround Them

While deadly to smaller animals (including other jellyfish), lion’s mane jellyfish stings don’t have much of an effect on fish of the Caranx genus, which actively seek the invertebrates out and hover near their tentacles for protection.

15. Sherlock Holmes Once Had to Contend with a Lion’s Mane Jellyfish.

The world’s greatest detective had never faced a squishier adversary. In The Adventure of the Lion’s Mane (1926), he deduces that an unlucky professor had been stung to death by one of these spineless predators—which he proceeds to track down and flatten with a boulder. No word on whether or not we’ll be seeing Benedict Cumberbatch go toe-to-tentacle with one.

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holidays
Bleat Along to Classic Holiday Tunes With This Goat Christmas Album
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Feeling a little Grinchy this month? The Sweden branch of ActionAid, an international charity dedicated to fighting global poverty, wants to goat—errr ... goad—you into the Christmas spirit with their animal-focused holiday album: All I Want for Christmas is a Goat.

Fittingly, it features the shriek-filled vocal stylings of a group of festive farm animals bleating out classics like “Jingle Bells,” “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” and “O Come All Ye Faithful.” The recording may sound like a silly novelty release, but there's a serious cause behind it: It’s intended to remind listeners how the animals benefit impoverished communities. Goats can live in arid nations that are too dry for farming, and they provide their owners with milk and wool. In fact, the only thing they can't seem to do is, well, sing. 

You can purchase All I Want for Christmas is a Goat on iTunes and Spotify, or listen to a few songs from its eight-track selection below.

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Animals
If You Want Your Cat to Poop Out More Hairballs, Try Feeding It Beets
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Have you ever wondered if there’s a way to get your cat to poop out its hairballs instead of hacking them up? If so, you’re likely a seasoned cat owner whose tolerance for gross stuff has reached the point of no return. Luckily, there may be an easy way to get your cat to dispose of hairballs in the litter box instead of on your carpet, according to one study.

The paper, published in the Journal of Physiology and Animal Nutrition, followed the diets of 18 mixed-breed short-haired cats over a month. Some cats were fed straight kibble, while others were given helpings of beet pulp along with their regular meals. The researchers suspected that beets, a good source of fiber, would help move any ingested hair through the cats’ digestive systems, thus preventing it from coming back up the way it went in. Following the experiment, they found that the cats with the beet diet did indeed poop more.

The scientists didn’t measure how many hairballs the cats were coughing up during this period, so it's possible that pooping out more of them didn’t stop cats from puking them up at the same rate. But considering hairballs are a matter of digestive health, more regular bowel movements likely reduced the chance that cats would barf them up. The cat body is equipped to process large amounts of hair: According to experts, healthy cats should only be hacking hairballs once or twice a year.

If you find them around your home more frequently than that, it's a good idea to up your cat's fiber intake. Raw beet pulp is just one way to introduce fiber into your pet's diet; certain supplements for cats work just as well and actually contain beet pulp as a fiber source. Stephanie Liff, a veterinarian at Pure Paws Veterinary Care in New York, recommends psyllium powder to her patients. Another option for dealing with hairballs is the vegetable-oil based digestive lubricant Laxatone: According to Dr. Liff, this can "help to move hairballs in the correct direction."

[h/t Discover]

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