|Photo Courtesy of Taylor Kelley|
"At first, I was thinking somebody had, like, littered, and there was plastic in the water," she said. "And then we noticed that there was a couple, and we were like, well, what is that?"
It turned out to be a freshwater jellyfish. According to the U.S. Geological Survey, freshwater jellyfish are found in 44 states, including the parts of Missouri along the Missouri River and the Lake of the Ozarks. Unlike their saltwater cousins, freshwater jellyfish pose no threat to humans.
The freshwater jellyfish is native to China. Researchers believe it was first brought to North America and Europe along with water hyacinth plants in the 1880s. The freshwater jellyfish mainly eats zooplankton, but scientists think it occasionally feeds on fish eggs. The crayfish is the freshwater jellyfish's only known important predator.
Taylor's father, Brian, said he had never seen a freshwater jellyfish in more than 30 years living at the lake. When Taylor first told him about her discovery, he thought she was playing a prank on him.
"I didn't realize there was such as thing as a freshwater jellyfish," he said.
The Kelleys saw a total of four jellyfish on Sunday and caught three of them. They later released them back into the lake. Taylor's best friend, Mya Margetts, said she used to see jellyfish at the beach when she lived in California. She said she was surprised to see them living in freshwater.
The Kelleys say they will look for more freshwater jellyfish in the future.