When Jellyfish Attack

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photo by the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Hordes of brainless, spineless masses are taking over the oceans, and scien­tists aren’t sure what to make of it. According to Discover (Sept. 2007), “blooms” of jellyfish and other gelatinous creatures make up nearly a third of the ocean’s biomass. Researchers from the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute and other organizations suspect that Mother Earth’s declining health is to blame, some cautiously referencing climate change, which has severely disrupted marine ecosystems, others pointing to commercial fishing, which snags jelly predators like turtles in its nets. It’s hard to know exactly what role jellyfish play in the undersea food web because scientists know surprisingly little about the otherworldly creatures. Jellies are too delicate to be tagged and tracked in their natural habitat, and they often don’t survive the journey from sea to lab. What is clear is that the tentacled blobs adapt and reproduce quickly, which suggests that as the world’s waters endure further changes, they may be the last ones swimming.

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