Animals

Fish-in-a-Jelly: Trapped or Happy to Be There?

Does a viral photo spell gloom or glory for a fish that seems to be in a world of trouble?

A picture of a fish seemingly trapped inside a jellyfish has caused a stir in social-media-land in recent days.

The compelling shot below, taken by avid photographer and diver Tim Samuel, was captured in Byron Bay, Australia, off the coast of New South Wales.

The fish, to human eyes, seems to have a distressed expression on its face, as though its animated thought-bubble would be "Get me outta here!" It seems to have wandered in, with no way to pop it in reverse and get back out.

After all, it seemed to Samuel that the little fish was not in complete control of its destiny. The fish, he told CNN, "seemed to be struggling a little bit, as it would swim around, it would try to swim in a straight line but the jellyfish would knock it off course, would send it in little circles or loops."

However, all might not be lost for the little fish with the "Finding Nemo" facial expression.

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What's really going on here, and what type of fish are we looking at? DNews asked Culum Brown, an associate professor in biological sciences from Macquarie University, in Sydney, Australia who specializes in fish behavior and cognition.

"It almost certainly is a trevally," Brown said of the species, in an email. "My guess is a juvenile golden trevally."

Golden trevally are big fish from the jack mackerel family and can be found widely throughout the Pacific and Indian tropics and subtropics.

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Of course, the question obviously prompted by the photo: Is this particular trevally doomed?

"As weird as this may seem," Brown said, "juvenile trevally, and also some leatherjackets, are often found inside jellies. They are immune to the stingers and thus use them for protection."

"They also scavenge off the food captured by the jelly," he added. "They may even be able to eat the jelly arms."

So, although nature is often as harsh as we think it is, this fish was not likely at the end of its mortal coil.

"This example is a big fish in a small jelly," said Brown. "So it looks a tad strange, but not unheard of."