Jellyfish, are boneless animals that float freely through the world’s oceans and South Africa is home to more than 20 species. Despite their name, they are not actually fish, but are a type of free-swimming sea anemone or coral. The body of the jellyfish is made up of a collagen-like protein used in beauty products.
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The following jellyfish, illustrated by Sheila Collins, appear on the South African stamps:
Barrel jellyfish (Rhizostoma sp.):
The deep hemispherical bell is opalescent white/blue in colour. The bell margin has no tentacles and it has arms with clubs at their ends. Its sting is harmless and in the Far East it is eaten and farmed. Widely distributed in South Africa, and frequently washed up on shores.
Purple compass jellyfish (Chrysaora africana):
The bell resembles a flattened hemisphere with a finely granular upper surface. Its sting may be mildly painful to some people, but is not lethal. It occurs along the west coast of Africa from South Africa to Gabon.
Box jellyfish (Chirodropus gorilla):
A large, box-jellyfish with a generally translucent bell. It is a fairly uncommon deeper water species found along the west coast of southern Africa, and extending southwards from Gabon to South Africa. It is closely related to a species that has a fatal sting and should be handled with care.
Helmet jellyfish (Periphylla periphylla):
Commonly known as the Helmet jellyfish, it is dark red or brown with a conical bell with 12 solid tentacles extending from the bell margin. It is a deep-water species with a painful, but not fatal, sting. It is a widespread and cosmopolitan species.
Pink meanie (Drymonema sp.):
The bell is flat and circular with a translucent, brown/pink colour without prominent furrows or markings. It has numerous tentacles arising under th bell and eats other jellyfish. In South Africa, there are a handful of unpublished records of a species of Drymonema from off the south-western Cape.
St Lucia jellyfish (Crambionella stuhlmanni):
This species lacks tentacles and its sting is harmless to humans: indeed, similar species are eaten in the Far East. In South Africa, it is restricted to Lake St Lucia north of Durban, but it is also found off Mozambique and Madagascar.
Mauve stinger (Pelagia noctiluca):
A fist-size jellyfish with a transparent, pinkish bell bearing numerous warts on the surface. Its sting is painful, but not lethal. Uncommon around South Africa, but recently regularly seen in False Bay. It gives off a blue light when disturbed or handled.
Box jellyfish (Carybdea branchi):
Also referred to as the South African box jellyfish, it has a transparent bell with warts on the outer surface. Mainly found along the south-west coast of South Africa, it is common in Cape Town Harbour. Stings are known to be harmful, but not lethal.
Benguela compass jellyfish (Chrysaora fulgida):
The orange-red bell of this coastal species resembles a flattened hemisphere. Its sting is mildly painful to some, but is not lethal. It is endemic to the Benguela ecosystem, and extends along the west coast of Africa from southern Angola to South Africa.
Cape barrel jellyfish (Eupilema inexpectata):
The bell is deeply hemispherical and opaque and is slightly granular to the touch. It has short, rigid arms around the mouth and no tentacles. It is harmless. Confined to the south-western Cape and endemic to the region.