Imagine being a jellyfish just swimming along, minding your own business, when suddenly you’re taken for a nauseating ride in a wildly spinning vortex. This is exactly what happened to a poor creature in Spain, and photographer Victor Devalles managed to capture every moment of it.
In fact, Devalles is the one who sort of, accidentally, on purpose instigated the whole thing. While snorkelling off the coast of the Balearic Islands, he created a bubble ring under a jellyfish and watched it float up towards the unsuspecting animal.
“I was trying to make a video of the jellyfish swimming through the bubble ring, but the ring hit the jellyfish,” Devalles explained to the Daily Mirror.
Instead of a creature nicely framed by the ring in the water, what happened instead was far more dramatic and surprisingly violent:
You can make an underwater bubble ring by facing the surface of water at a depth of at least 1.5 metres and blowing out some air.
Most of the time the bubble will simply break apart, but about one time out of ten it may transform into a shimmering silver doughnut of swirling fluid mechanics.
This happens if the bubble of air is big enough. The water pressure at the bottom of the bubble is greater than at the top, so the pressure pushes the air up faster. This squeezes the bubble until the bottom meets the top and punches a hole through the middle, where water flows through.
The water then circles back down and around the air, creating a ring of vortices:
We’re not the only ones that like to play with bubble rings. Dolphins love messing with them too.
Bubble rings are buoyant and can survive intact as they float all the way to the surface – unless something interferes with them… like a run-in with a jellyfish.
The animal disrupted the vortices, and in the video it appears that they funnelled all the remaining energy into making the jellyfish spin, before falling apart and spitting the animal out.
This isn’t the only example of a jellyfish going for a bubble ring spin either.
While jellyfish may be accustomed to being tossed around by stormy waves, and tortuous sea currents, this is a whole other level. One Reddit user compared it toompared it to “taking a walk in the park and accidentally stepping into a tornado.”
Jellyfish have organs called statocysts that are dedicated to balance and orientation, so these unfortunate creatures probably experienced something akin to being disorientated, at least while spinning.
Luckily, in this case at least, Devalles observed the jellyfish swim off normally, without any obvious signs of harm.