Using a camera with a frame rate faster than anything Hollywood could ever imagine, a group of German scientists has become the first to successfully capture the mechanism of a jellyfish’s stinger cells on film. Shot at a blistering 1.4 million frames per second—fast enough to make a speeding bullet creep through the frame like a snail—the video reveals the intricate workings of the stinger cells, one of the fastest cellular processes in nature.
A jellyfish’s stinger cell, called a nematocyst, contains a sharp dart spring-loaded into the cell by a tightly packed collagen structure. When the tentacle comes in contact with prey and the lids of the nematocysts open, the dart is hurled forth with a pressure of seven billion Pascals—roughly equivalent to the force of a gunshot wound and strong enough to pierce the hard shells of mollusks. The poison is then injected through the dart via osmosis, resulting in searing pain and a ruined vacation if you’re human, or instant paralysis and lunch status if you’re not. —John Mahoney