Totes Jelly: Litchfield Sixth Grader Finds Rare Freshwater Jellyfish

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Eleven-year-old Jacob Volentine has fished often in his family's pond north of Litchfield, but on Sunday, Sept. 8, something special caught Litchfield sixth grader's attention.

"I was fishing there about an hour when I saw something near my bait," Jacob said. "I thought, 'Hmmm, is that a jellyfish?'"

To almost everyone's surprise, it was.

Jacob had stumbled upon a Craspedacusta sowerbyi, more simply known as a freshwater jellyfish. While Jacob's finding, dubbed "Smuckers", is about the size of a quarter, the jellyfish usually measure in at five to 25 millimeters in diameter and are translucent with whitish or greenish tinge, making them extremely difficult to spot in open water.

"They have found some up north in Illinois, but not many around here," said Josh Volentine said. "We looked around when he found this one, but we didn't see any other jellyfish."

The first sighting of these tiny creatures in the U.S. came in 1880 according to the United States Geological Survey, who verifies sightings of nonindigenous aquatic species. The USGS speculates that the first Craspedacusta sowerbyi were probably transported over with ornamental aquatic plants, especially water hyacinth, from it's native region of China. The site also says that the immature forms of the jellyfish were probably transported accidentally throughout the US by stocked fish and aquatic plants or by waterfowl.

The USGS also notes that the jellyfish prefer still or slow moving freshwater bodies between 12 and 33 degrees Celsius, making the Volentine's pond a good habitat.

So good in fact, this isn't the first one the family has seen. Glen Savage and Jacob's grandparents, Brian and Jan Volentine, saw the first jellyfish at the pond almost 13 years ago.

At that time, it was more difficult to verify sightings and the family didn't even think to take pictures of their unique visitor.

They didn't miss that opportunity this time though, as Smuckers has already been verified by the USGS and has his own post on the IDNR's Ifishillinois Facebook page.

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