Cauvery’s Little Floating Secret

Say hello to these unusually friendly Jellyfish you’ve probably never heard of!

The lifeline of South India – the sacred Cauvery River, is more than just a source of water and a few disputes (couldn’t help plugging that in!). It holds a little-known secret! Having been sighted just a few times, the Cauvery is home to a peculiar kind of freshwater jellyfish, one that is non-venomous unlike those found at sea.

Adorably tiny, these babies grow to only 2 to 3 centimeters!; Photo Credit: Amoghavarsha
Rare photos of Cauvery River’s fresh water jellyfish, Craspedacusta sowerbii; Photo Credit: Amoghavarsha

Tiny wonders!

Jellyfish are creatures we usually admire from afar, especially because of their poisonous tentacles, whose sting can be extremely painful and sometimes fatal. Sounds pretty dangerous for a cute little Cnidarian! But these freshwater jellyfish are the less aggressive cousins of the jellyfish we’ve all heard painful stories about. And yes, I’m talking about that episode of ‘Friends’ we’ve all watched a hundred times.

Cauvery river’s unique jellyfish, Craspedacusta sowerbii, are best sighted when the temperature of the water is nice and warm. They aren’t as flamboyant as marine Jellyfish and grow just 2 to 3 centimeters in diameter. They like to hang out underwater in colonies attached to rocks and plants, usually where a sustainable food source is available. They reproduce during the spring/summer, because TBH, isn’t that the best time for some fun in the sun?!

But don’t let their small size fool you! Jellyfish hunt with their extremely tiny tentacles that produce enough venom to paralyze even tinier prey. Having said that, research has shown that the amount of venom produced has a near nil effect on humans. Their tentacles do not have the capacity to pierce human skin. Makes you want to swim with them, right?

Kinda looks like a superhero doesn't it? Or a SuperJelly!; Photo Credit: Amoghavarsha

Your next question could be, but how did these magnificent creatures even get here?

Research states that when the temperatures of the waters drop, the jellyfish contract into little podocysts and are most likely transported by aquatic plants and migratory birds. Once they are reintroduced into an environment that’s suitable, they come out of the cyst and resume their life cycle.

Very little research or documentation has been done on these unique and beautiful creatures. These are among the very few photographs of this species. More recently, they have also been found in other rivers of Southern India. In a country with more than a billion people and a high population density, many untold stories from the natural world still remain a miracle indeed!

Freshwater Jellies have little tentacles which are pretty handy during lunch time!; Photo Credit: Amoghavarsha

Edited by Dominic D’Cruz