Saturday, May 18, 2013

Jelly Invasion Arrives at Vancouver Aquarium Featuring Thousands of Jellies

Mastigias papua. Photo courtesy of Vancouver Aquarium.
A new exhibition opened this week at the Vancouver Aquarium, running through November 12, 2013. Simply called Jelly Invasion, the jellies number in the thousands, including more than 15 species of jellies from around the world -- each corner of the Aquarium will showcase a different species. They're mesmerizing to watch, so it's no surprise the Vancouver Aquarium Jelly Cam is getting plenty of traffic.

Growing up in the Pacific Northwest, we called them jellyfish, and had fights on the beach with the white ones (the red ones we feared most, as they could sting). And it's true that some box jellyfishes can cause cardiac arrests in humans within minutes of being stung. The term jellies refer to all gelatinous drifting animals (zooplankton), while jellyfish is used to describe the umbrella-shaped jellies with stinging cells that belong to the group of animals (phylum) called Cnidaria.

Jelly Neil Fisher. Vancouver Aquarium photo.
Highlights of the exhibit include such jellies as the lion's mane, a jellyfish whose tentacles can grow to the length of five city buses parked end to end (60 meters long); the upside-down jellyfish, which care for the algae growing in their tissues by always flipping upside down; the blubber and spotted jellyfishes from the warm waters of the Indo-Pacific that have no tentacles, but still sting; and the translucent comb jelly, a fierce predator of other comb jellies found in the cooler waters of the Pacific Northwest. 

There's also an explanation of the phenomenon of jelly blooms, which are unusually huge congregations of jellyfishes and comb jellies. The jelly blooms can decimate fisheries, tip over fishing boats and shut down power plants. Here are some other fun facts about jellies:
  • A jellyfish's body is comprised of about 95% water
  • Despite their delicate appearance, jellies poop out of their mouths
  • The most popular jellyfish is the edible jellyfish that's commercially sold as red, sand or China jellyfish. They are cut into strips, marinated with a soy-sesame dressing and served as a salad with vegetable or chicken slices
  • Urinating on a jellyfish sting makes it worse. Use a credit card to gently scrape the remaining tentacle and/or stinging cells off your skas as soon as possible
  • Caribbean box jellyfish have sophisticated eyes, stalking its prey with four clusters of 24 eyes
Spotted Jell. Photo courtesy of Vancouver Aquarium.

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