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Sea Monsters: Jellyriggers - Fauna
Written By: Elizabeth Barrette (Writer), Ellen Million (Editor), PeggyB (Developer), PeggyB (Artwork)
An advanced type of toxic jellyfish that grows to 45 feet.
 
 

Keiyorg Fulirirg (aka Forf) (Pink Jellyrigger)
Keiyorg Urarirg (aka Yorf) (Purple Jellyrigger)

Two kinds of jellyrigger are found on the Torn World oceans, both medium-sized polyvores. The pink jellyrigger grows to 25-35 ft wide and originated in the area around the Mist Islands in shard #30. It now is found throughout the interior gulf and thrives in warm water. The purple jellyrigger grows to 35-45 feet wide and is common through the cooler western oceans. It travels over deep or shallow water but only inhabits the surface area because it floats. It resembles a giant flatboat with sails, made out of gelatin. The large puffy body can reach several feet in thickness, with a rounded or oblong shape. It can become polygonal in a clone cluster as new body floats form around the original one. This part is usually a mix of orange, red, and yellow colors for the pink jellyfish, while the purple jellyfish sports a mix of blue, green and yellow.

Both types of jellyrigger sport sails, which they use for maneuvering towards food and away from danger. On the pink jellyrigger, the triangular sail can reach 10-15 feet high, with a stiff upright spine and a flexible vane, allowing the jellyrigger to steer with the wind. The lower edge of the vane is not attached directly to the body, but instead is anchored by the spine and by elastic tissues at the lower corners. These tissues can expand or contract to change the position of the sail. The spines of the pink jellyrigger are usually purple to crimson, with vivid pink or fuchsia sails giving this animal its name. The purple jellyrigger has a square sail, with two upright indigo spines that can reach 20 feet high and a flexible vane in shades from vivid purple to purple-red. The pink jellyrigger is much more maneuverable than the distantly related purple jellyrigger, though not as sturdy. Either jellyrigger can deflate its floats and furl its sails to sink slightly underwater as a means of escaping surface attack or bad weather, or to avoid drying out too much. They are sensitive to changes in pressure and experienced sailors use them to predict oncoming storms, and in the past, also observed them to avoid the invisible shard barriers. If jellyriggers sink without sign of illness or injury, it suggests that a serious storm may be on the way.

Dangling underneath the body, a fringe of venomous tentacles can reach 175 feet in length for the pink jellyrigger and up to 200 feet for the purple jellyrigger; these capture and paralyze the prey animals, as well as act as a remote sensing net they can sense chemical changes in the water. Some small fish are adapted to living amongst the tentacles, however, and are immune. The shorter and stronger handling tentacles are only about 10-12 feet long on the pink jellyrigger, and about 20 feet on the purple, serving to stuff meat into the digestive pouches. Finally, calcareous anchors (similar to coral) may be ejected during a storm, holding the jellyrigger in place with sturdy tentacles up to 200 feet long. A special gravity-sensitive organ called a statocyst perceives gravity, so jellyriggers can sense up and down even if the waves are pitching wildly, and use their sails to maintain proper orientation vertically as well as horizontally. The pink jellyrigger has anchors with more weight than drag, which work best when they can reach the seafloor, while the purple jellyrigger has anchors with more drag than weight, which work best in open water.

A jellyrigger actually has three modes of feeding. First, it can capture fish and other sizable animals with its tentacles, conveying them to the digestive pouches. The purple jellyrigger depends most heavily on this mode, and is a formidable hunter that can even take out other monsters. Second, a jellyrigger can filter-feed on plankton, algae, and other tiny floating food. Third, the jellyrigger has a symbiotic relationship with single-celled algae called zooxanthellae; these use sunlight for photosynthesis and share the energy with the host jellyrigger. For this reason, jellyriggers tend to migrate eastward in the morning and westward in the afternoon, taking maximum advantage of the sunlight. Pink jellyriggers rely more heavily on the photosynthetic mode than do the purple jellyriggers. Together, these three modes of feeding give the big blob enough energy to power its sails, a necessity in hazardous Torn World waters. Jellyriggers are eaten by giant sea turtles, who are immune to their venom, and occasionally by other sea monsters.

A jellyrigger has two modes of reproduction. (The styling is reversed from that of a Terran jellyfish.) First, sexual reproduction begins when an adult, hermaphroditic jellyrigger releases a swarm of male and female gamete larvae (similar to a jellyfish's planular larvae). These settle on a coral reef or other seafloor fixture where they mature into male and female polyps; each polyp attaches with a basal disc, has a tough stalk, and ends in a fringe of short tentacles. The polyps then spawn; females first release their eggs, thus stimulating the males to release their clouds of milt. (They are not self-fertile, but require fertilization from a different jellyrigger. Ocean currents tend to deposit the gamete larvae from multiple jellyriggers in similar places.) The fertilized eggs grow into baby jellyriggers, a form similar to a Terran jellyfish's ephyra stage. These live in the water column, growing big enough to form floats and sails. Then they inflate, rise to the surface, and take on the familiar shape of a jellyrigger, similar to a jellyfish's medusa stage.

This final stage can reproduce asexually by budding and division. It begins as a single body (although it is actually a colony of zooids, like a Portuguese man o' war) which includes a sail, a float, a digestive pouch, a set of handling tentacles and fishing tentacles, a pair of hermaphroditic gonads, and an anchor. The single body is sometimes called the "explorer phase" of the jellyrigger. When the jellyrigger has enough energy, it can bud another section, which will have all the same parts, sharing the same genetic code and exchanging nutrients. In this fashion, a jellyrigger forms a clone cluster of connected floats, which is sometimes called the "flotilla phase" of life. These connections give the central floats a polygonal shape where their rounded sides become flattened by neighboring floats. A flotilla's sails may all orient in the same direction for maximum speed, or in different directions for tacking and steering like the many sails on a galleon. A flotilla also tends to have longer tentacles hanging from the oldest central float and shorter ones hanging from the younger outer floats; this helps reduce, though not eliminate, damage from tangling the tentacles.

In stormy weather, high winds and waves can rip an adult jellyrigger to pieces. But as long as a segment remains intact, with all its zooid parts, it can regrow by budding. Usually the older, central sections will die while some of the younger, outer sections survive; loss of tentacles due to entangling is the most common fatal storm-damage. The pink jellyrigger relies more heavily on asexual reproduction than on sexual reproduction -- its characteristic triangular sail probably evolved just once and then spread in this fashion. Asexual reproduction allows a species to make perfect copies of a supremely valuable feature. A given section only has a lifespan of one year, but given this asexual reproduction, a jellyrigger can be considered nearly immortal.

Jellyriggers vary in frequency depending on the season. Adults release their gamete larvae just before the autumn storm season. They are at their largest and least common then. The autumn storms tear apart most of the clusters, leaving a greater number of smaller, individual sections. Over the winter, these grow slowly. The gamete larvae settle as polyps and overwinter in that form. In spring, the surviving sections begin to grow rapidly and put out new buds. Polyps spawn in spring, creating baby jellyriggers that grow underwater for a time. There is a brief, numerous bloom of young jellyriggers on the surface in early summer; most of these get eaten by sea turtles and other predators before their stinging tentacles get potent enough to protect them from large animals. Then, by autumn, the sea is dominated by a few big adults again. The smaller they are, the more numerous they are; and the more likely they are to appear in masses because they have little control over their motion. Big adults have a lot of navigational control via their sails, and they prefer to avoid each other because tangling their tentacles with other adults can be fatal. Unlike a jellyrigger in flotilla phase, where the attached floats move in exactly the same direction, separate jellyriggers approaching each other tend to be on slightly different tangents which increases the chance of tangles resulting in significant injury.

The pink jellyrigger has weak venom when young and moderate venom when fully mature; the strength alone is not enough to kill a healthy human, although some people are allergic -- it is about on a level with a beesting. The purple jellyrigger has moderate venom when young and strong venom when full grown. Their mature venom can easily kill a human, and is useful for disabling other sea monsters, although that takes a much larger volume of the venom. Young jellyriggers tend to cluster, while old jellyriggers have many yards of stinging tentacles -- so a victim can get stung so much that the sheer volume is fatal even if the venom is weaker. If someone is stung, it is imperative to get the tentacles off as fast as possible and apply an acid such as vinegar to neutralize the alkali-based venom. (Urine will work in an emergency if nothing else is available, but vinegar is far more effective.) A jellyrigger won't "attack" the way most sea monsters do, but they are still a serious water hazard. The main risks are to beachcombers getting stung by washed-up tentacles, having a whole catch of fish ruined by jellyrigger in the net, or an adult jellyrigger tangling the entire ship, especially the larger purple jellyrigger. Additionally, pink jellyriggers may sting swimmers in the water; people rarely swim in the cold waters the purple jellyrigger inhabits, so they are only an immediate threat to a swimmer if someone falls overboard near one.

Jellyriggers are valued for their sails and floats. These are difficult to harvest intact, but when properly preserved, they produce a tough clear material that lasts a long time and is waterproof. It is not easy to cut or puncture and difficult to tear. Materials from the pink jellyrigger are more flexible but less durable and long-lasting than those of the purple jellyrigger. The sails dry flat in shades of very pale pink to clear for the pink jellyrigger, and pale lavender to clear for the purple jellyrigger. The floats turn into something like an air mattress: hollow with strong walls of a peach to faint pink color for the pink jellyrigger and various shades of turquoise for the purple jellyrigger. These materials are good for making sails, windows, umbrellas, rain gear, etc. However, they require periodic treatment with a special oil to keep them supple. The anchors may also be harvested for use intact or as a craft material.

Before Upheaval: Numerous types of sea jellies existed, all considerably smaller than the modern jellyrigger and with less sophisticated sail membranes.

Sundered Times: The Upheaval caused a great deal of immediate pollution, and the most sensitive species died out before the water quality could recover. One tough, adaptable species in time shard #30 evolved into the pink jellyrigger and in shard #59, one evolved into the purple jellyrigger. Both species grew bigger and developed a much more sophisticated sail. With its short, one-year reproductive cycle and dual modes, the jellyrigger was able to experiment with new designs while easily replicating the most successful. By the end of the sundered times, the jellyrigger had become a force to reckon with.

Modern Times: The pink jellyrigger rapidly spread throughout the central gulf, with its gamete larvae carried by undersea currents and its adults driven by strong winds. It first spread from time shard #30 to shards #32, #13, #66, #12, and #68. Then it spread from shard #12 to shards #11 and #14 and toward the southern continent. It has not yet spread far out into western or eastern ocean, or up into the interior sea, but it has more room to do so before running out of its warm-water habitat.

The purple jellyrigger rapidly spread through the cold waters of the western ocean, with its gamete larvae carried by undersea currents and its adults driven by strong winds. It first spread from time shard #59 to shards #60 and #62, then from #62 into #63. It has not yet spread to all of the cold western coast or far to the north, but it has more room to do so before running out of its cold-water habitat. The purple jellyrigger cannot survive in warm water, and is unlikely to move any farther south, or to make it to the eastern ocean.

This article contains extra material for our contributors only!

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