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By Marie-Louise Brimberg – The National Geographic
 
  Located directly across the continent from Maryland and Virginia's Chesapeake Bay, California's Monterey Bay was chosen as the site of the 1998 National Ocean Conference. Its rich variety of sea life includes the Monterey Bay jellyfish, one of 350 species of jellyfish living throughout the world's oceans. Composed of 95 percent water, these invertebrates have no heart, brain, blood or gills.

A jellyfish feeds on small, drifting animals called zooplankton, which it traps with stringy tentacles bordering the rim of its cupped body, or "bell." These tentacles and other parts of the body carry stinging cells that are fired toward prey – and can cause stinging pain to unsuspecting beachgoers who try to pick up a dead jellyfish, or trip upon one in the sand.

A jellyfish is a true jet propulsion machine: It swims by pushing water out of the bell, gracefully propelling itself in the opposite direction. Though feared for their sting, jellyfish are quite harmless to people – and some species are even being used to treat certain human cancers and heart diseases.


© Copyright 1998 The Washington Post Company

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