Lions and Leviathans, the Sun and the Moon, in Buzzards Bay

Lion’s Mane Jelly in Buzzards Bay Estuary

Saturday morning, April 14th, Turtle Journal spotted its first lion’s mane jelly (Cyanea capilata)   of the season in Sippican Harbor off Buzzards Bay.   While March presented a couple of early warm days, the weather since has been chilly on the South Coast.  But with today’s southwesterly breeze and 60 degree temperatures, the Sippican estuary has sprung to life.

Juvenile Lion’s Mane Jelly in Sippican Harbor

Beyond the sheer beauty of these magnificent creatures and the joy they bring each spring when they appear in Massachusetts, lion’s manes presage another important arrival.  Lion’s manes (and other slurpy jellies) form the major food source for the great leviathans of today’s reptilian class.

Massive Female Leatherback Sea Turtle

No, not dinosaurs; even with fictional tales of Jurassic Park, Tyrannosaurus rex remains a creature of the past.  But we still have supersized leatherback sea turtles (Dermochelys coriacea) that tip the scales at up to one ton.  In order to assume such massive weight, these pelagic sea turtles roam the oceans in search of patches of jelly fish.


Open Wide! (Mouth of Leatherback Sea Turtle)

Cruising the great wide oceans, leatherbacks cross thousands of miles of emptiness until they discover another concentration of jellies.  Yet, they are well designed to allow maximum consumption of prey when they are fortunate enough to find their preferred food source.  Note the cartilaginous, downward-pointing spines that line the throat and esophagus to ensure that it’s a one-way trip for any jelly unlucky enough to encounter a feeding leatherback … and they’re always feeding when jellies are in sight.


Sun and Moon (Jelly) in Buzzards Bay

Today Turtle Journal found not only a lion’s mane, but also the first moon jelly (Aurelia aurita) of the season, caught in the reflection of the morning sun on Sippican Harbor.  They, too, present a tasting treat for hungry leatherbacks.

Female Leatherback Sea Turtle (Dermochelys coriacea)

With jelly fish floating through the Buzzards Bay estuary, there is little doubt these massive leviathans will soon arrive in coastal New England waters to partake in the feast.

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