Last week, a video of this mysterious blob floating 5000 feet under the sea was all over the Internet. Was it a whale placenta? A jellyfish? After some collective ooing and aahing, folks on the interwebs put their thinking hats on. Craig McClain at Deep Sea News dug through the literature and found a 1988 paper describing just such a jellyfish, calling it Deepstaria reticulum.
Now the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute has posted a stunning video of Deepstaria jellyfish. Watch it to learn more about Deepstaria—and to look at pretty images. Win win for a Friday afternoon.
[via Deep Sea News]
The motion of jellyfish and other sea creatures might mix the oceans just as much as the winds and tides do, according to a study published in Nature. The study’s findings provide support for a theory called Darwin drift, which was developed by Charles Galton Darwin (the grandson of the Darwin). The theory holds that a body moving through water brings along some of the wet stuff.
To test the theory of Darwin drift, researchers first modeled the motion of swimming organisms in a lab, using liquids of various viscosities, or levels of internal resistance. They found that bodies drag more liquid along with them when the liquid is thicker. This effect can be significant; in fact, when marine plankton-sized objects moved a couple of body lengths forward in the most viscous liquids, they carried with them up to four times their volume in liquid. Next the researchers monitored jellyfish as they swam through clouds of dye in a lake on the Pacific island of Palau. A trail of dye followed each animal, as Darwin’s mechanism would predict. Using a laser-equipped camera, the team then measured the dye’s movement and the stirring of suspended particles in the animal’s wake [Nature News]. The scientists found that the mechanism proposed by Galton Darwin provided for 90 percent of the mixing between the water and the dye.
Massive swarms of jellyfish are a growing threat to swimmers, the fishing industry, and even the nuclear power industry, a new report argues, and it’s high time for scientists to begin researching the causes of the population boom and how to reverse the trend. The new report from the National Science Foundation may tend towards sensationalism (the report is titled “Jellyfish Gone Wild!!“), but the problem is very real. The report says more than 1,000 fist-sized comb jellies can be found in a cubic yard (meter) of Black Sea water during a bloom. They eat the eggs of fish and compete with them for food, wiping out the livelihoods of fishermen, according to the report [Reuters]. A big swarm of jellies can also burst a fishing net or poison and crush a load of captured fish, the report says, and their bodies can clog boat engines.
“When jellyfish populations run wild,” the NSF jellyboffins warn, “they may jam thousands of square miles with their pulsing, gelatinous bodies.” It seems that no less than half a billion “refrigerator sized” slimy horrors weighing 450 pounds each invade the Sea of Japan daily, while Australian waters are plagued with “deadly, peanut-sized” Jellybabies of Death [The Register]. Popular tourist beaches from Spain to Alabama have been closed in recent years when swarms of stinging jellies threatened to harm bathers. As for their impact on nuclear power: The report claims that swarms of jellies sometimes clog the water intake pipes of power plants, and notes that in 1999 just such an incident forced a power plant in the Philippines to shut down, which “plunged 40 million people into darkness and started rumors of a coup d’etat.”
Three researchers who worked on a fluorescent protein found in jellyfish and developed it into a standard laboratory tool have been awarded the Nobel Prize in chemistry, the prize committee announced today. The three researchers, Osamu Shimomura, Martin Chalfie, and Roger Tsien, worked separately to first isolate the protein, which glows brightly when exposed to ultraviolet light, and then to develop ways to use it as a luminescent marker in the cells of other organisms.
Said the prize committee: “The remarkable brightly glowing green fluorescent protein, GFP, was first observed in the beautiful jellyfish, Aequorea victoria in 1962…. Since then, this protein has become one of the most important tools used in contemporary bioscience. With the aid of GFP, researchers have developed ways to watch processes that were previously invisible, such as the development of nerve cells in the brain or how cancer cells spread” [Reuters].