Blue Buttons

Blue Button JellyFish

Stunning Blue Button photo by National Geographic photographer, David Liittschwager, 2007

A new sighting – for me – while SUPing this afternoon in the Sea of Cortez. Curious deep blue ‘buttons’ floating/drifting on the surface. I don’t remember seeing them before, and with homage again to the power of Google, the mysterious creature has been identified.

Blue Buttons are tiny inch size spheres with hair like tentacles that lend a jelly fish like appearance. Not real jelly-fish, but a sea organisms called Porpita porpita, their tenecles are

A wikepdia definition yeilds the following information:

Porpita porpita[1], commonly known as the blue button, is a marine organism consisting of a colony of hydroids[2] found in tropical waters from California to the tropical Pacific[3], the Atlantic and Indian oceans[4] It is often mistaken for a jellyfish, but although jellyfish and the blue buttons are part of the same phylum (Cnidaria), the blue button is part of the class Hydrozoa.The blue button lives on the surface of the sea and consists of two main parts: the float and the hydroid colony. The hard golden-brown float is round, almost flat, and is about one inch wide. The hydroid colony, which can range from bright blue turquoise to yellow, resembles tentacles like those of the jellyfish.[5] Each strand has numerous branchlets, each of which ends in knobs of stinging cells called nematocysts. The blue button sting is not powerful but may cause irritation if it comes in contact with human skin.[2]

It plays a role in the food web, as its size makes it easy prey for several organisms. The blue button itself is a passive drifter, meaning that it feeds on both living and dead organisms that come in contact with it. It competes with other drifters for food and mainly feeds off of small fish, eggs, and zooplankton. The blue button has a single mouth located beneath the float which is used for both the intake of nutrients as well as the expulsion of wastes.

It is preyed on by Violet Sea-snails of the genus Janthina [6].

What a treat to paddle with the tiny blue floating discs all around me. Since they are defined as living in tropical waters, my sense is that their appearance means that the water is warming up – somewhat early – and the summer just may be a sizzler…

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