TAMPA, Fla. - There is now a rare chance to touch jellyfish -- safely -- at The Florida Aquarium.
The aquarium is home to a new interactive exhibit, Moon Bay. The 2,000-gallon habitat features two pools where "moon jellies" float around, allowing aquarium visitors to touch and learn more the species.
According to aquarium officials, it is the fourth of its kind in the country. The translucent animals make for a visually appealing experience, as light can shine through them -- hence, the name "moon."
The touch experience does not pose any risks to visitors or the moon jellies themselves, officials said. Moon jellies are cold-water jellies. They have a gentle sting, but it's only enough to stun their prey, like plankton. The moon jelly has no brain or nervous system and floats around the water wherever the waves take it. Despite this, they are quite durable.
The exhibit is also meant to educate the public about the moon jelly's important role to the ecosystem. Bigger animals, like sea turtles rely on them for food.
However, because of their appearance, plastic pollution can be mistaken for the jellyfish, highlighting the problem with littering.
"When that's moving in the ocean that could easily end up in a turtle, a whale shark, a dolphin, a whale -- any number of animals are going to look at that and say, 'I'm hungry. That looks like food,'" explained Eric Hovland, associate curator at The Florida Aquarium. "Don't make that mistake."
Moon jellies have been around close to 500 million years due its survival instincts and reproduction cycle. Adults release eggs and sperm into the water making polyps. Polyps can clone themselves and make baby jellies.
The aquarium uses the jellies reproductive cycle to its advantage. They will never have to take any moon jellies from the wild.
The aquarium does have rules about touching the moon jellies, as they do at the stingray touch tank. They ask that you treat the jellies gently, and only use two fingers to touch their disc.
For more information on the Moon Bay Exhibit, head over to The Florida Aquarium's website.