Nature has so many surprises in store for us. When I took a walk down the Manori beach a month ago, among the usual rubbish, I saw a lot of what looked like soft drinks corks strewn all over the shore. But upon taking a closer look, I was surprised! It wasn’t the cork of a soft drink bottle but what looked like a fleshy pink centre surrounded by blue tentacles. At first glance, it looked a lot like a jelly fish to me because of the tentacles. But the centre was a mystery.
Later when i looked up Blue Jelly Fish on the beaches of Mumbai online, I found the correct identity of this mystical creature. What I had mistaken to be some kind of a Jelly Fish was actually a Blue Button (Porpita porpita).
The Blue Button is not a single creature. It is in fact a marine organism which is a colony of hydroids that are found in the tropical and sub-tropical waters of the Pacific, Atlantic, and Indian oceans.
Here is an excerpt about the Blue Buttons from Wikipedia:
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 about one inch wide. The hydroid colony, which can range from bright blue turquoise to yellow, resembles tentacles like those of the jellyfish. 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 to human skin.
The blue button itself is a passive drifter, and is part of the neustonic food web. It is preyed on by the sea slug Glaucus atlanticus (sea swallow or blue glaucus) and violet sea-snails of the genus Janthina. It competes with other drifters for food and mainly feeds on copepods and crustacean larvae. The blue button has a single mouth located beneath the float, which is used for both the intake of prey and the expulsion of wastes.
I am so happy to have sighted a unique species from the marine life of Mumbai. The year is definitely off to a great start with this amazing sighting. Keep watching this space for more updates about the wildlife of India.