The Blue Button, 18 May 2014

Porpita porpita, the Blue button;
Volusia county, Florida (18 May 2014)

Welcome to the wonderful world of Cnidaria! More specifically, this is the Blue button, Porpita porpita, a Hydrozoa species that is actually comprised of a colony of hydroids living and operating together as a single biological system. See those “tentacles” branching out from the round disc? Each of those strands is actually a single hydroid, all of them attached to the central disc and functioning as a single organism. The Blue button passively floats on the water and collects food along the way. Each hydroid “tentacle” consists of stinging nematocysts, but the sting isn’t really much of an issue to people — thankfully. The “mouth” unit, if you will, is centrally located beneath the disc itself. The mouth also acts as the anus, which is gross and makes me want to make a political joke about Trump. But I won’t because I don’t need to; you’re already thinking it.

Anyhow, blue buttons can be remarkably common along Volusia county beaches at times, but they often remain largely unnoticed. Unlike some of their larger brethren (such as the Portuguese man o’ war, featured in our next post), Blue buttons are fairly tiny. The disc only averages around an inch across, give or take.

Though you may think the Blue button is a kind of jellyfish, it actually isn’t. Class Hydrozoa, which contains the Blue button, is quite distinct from Class Scyphozoa, also known as the True Jellyfish. Both Hydrozoa and Scyphozoa, however, are members of Phylum Cnidaria — so you’re not tooooo far off base.

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