Google Glory

I may be one of the few that have Google Alert on the word “jellyfish.” Yes, I’ve been a faithful subscriber since 2011, collecting hundreds of posts on topics ranging from jellyfish stings to restaurants with jellyfish on the menu to the goings on of an ad agency called Jellyfish to a defunct band by the same name. I wait for the daily email like People magazine, craving the list of cnidarian news it brings me from around the world. It’s timed to arrive at the end of the day, so as not not to be distracting but to give me that little jolt of gelatinous gossip just before the kids get home. Today, it arrived as scheduled, and I’m shocked to find I hit the front page! I don’t know why it didn’t occur to me that the story I wrote on moon jelly life cycles would make the list, but […]

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Little Jellies and Big News

Last year, I wrote about the world’s biggest animals – and jellies topped the charts. Now, we know jellyfish dominate the opposite end of the animal spectrum too. A jellyfish was just declared the smallest animal in the world. These minute beings were so problematic when they were first discovered living embedded in the tissues of fish, taxonomists of the 1880’s scratched their heads and named them for how mixed up they felt. The myxozoa were strange little parasites, just a few cells in size. Perhaps, like many parasites, they were protozoans like amoebas. Peering closer, scientists noticed something exceptional. One of the few myxozoan cells is cyst that can expel (or fire?) its contents, maybe used to fasten the parasite to the host’s body. The reminded the scientists of something they’d seen before: a jellyfish stinging cell. In the 1930’s, Robert Weil, an expert on jellyfish stinging cells, examined the myxozoan cysts and said they must belong […]

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JPF: Jellyfish Protection Factor

Although I have been working on Spineless for four years, I never really had a meaningful jellyfish sting. This was something that I felt weirdly ashamed of, especially when so many people I talk to about jellyfish tell me of their blistering run-ins and my daily Google newsfeed on jellyfish often brings me disturbing sting stories. How could I write authoritatively about stings having never had one? But this summer swimming in a huge bloom of nomadic jellies in Haifa, I was slashed by tentacles a couple times. It felt like slaps of hot oil. Lucky, the pain only lasted a couple hours. After a day, the marks were gone. Given how common they are, it’s pretty amazing that there’s no medical consensus on how to treat jellyfish stings. In large part that’s because there are thousands of jellyfish species swimming in the seas, and each with its own complement of stinging cells and toxins. Despite the Friend’s episode where […]

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Denizens of the Deep

A few years ago, the NOAA ship Okeanos Explorer was on the third and final leg of 57-day expedition in the Gulf of Mexico. Its remotely operated vehicle, or ROV, called Little Hercules was deployed in the water approaching an unidentified shipwreck. The Okeanos was streaming its mission live, and I watched it from the comfort of my home office in the middle of Texas, though I felt like I was in NASA’s control center during a moon landing. We explore our own oceans as if we were aliens, relying on high-tech gear to electronically reach down into this strange and foreign world. The feed on my computer screen was divided into quadrants. The top left was from the ROV’s video camera. The quality of the image was outstanding, better than the video camera I used for my kids’ birthday parties. A second quadrant showed the control room on […]

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Beyond Medusa

My last post on how jellyfish got the name Medusa made me wonder about names of jellyfish in general. Have other cultures seen the same connections between jellyfish and the monster? Or do they see the angel side of the jellyfish, the diaphanous graceful aspect? It’s not so easy to find answers to these questions on the internet. Language translators tell you the spelling–often in letters I can’t read–but never the meaning. The only name that popped up when I searched Google was on Buzzfeed’s list of wacky Welsh words. In Wales, jellyfish are commonly called “cont y mor,” but also “psygod wibbly wobbly,” or wiggle wiggle fish, which is what you’d get if you could make up the equivalent of an onomatopoeia for a word’s meaning. (And somehow it’s not surprising that Buzzfeed has published a list of wacky Welsh words. What is surprising is that they don’t already have a list The World’s 10 Most Interesting Names for Jellyfish. Back off Buzzfeed! This […]

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Medusa

Who doesn’t love puppets on strings? My kids, that’s who. Despite bribes, neither one would join me at a community theater marionette production of Perseus and Medusa. So, there I was, the only solo adult in the theater – don’t judge. If they had joined me, my kids would have been captivated as our hero, a dashing toga-clad Perseus, learned that in order to save his mother from her evil suitor, he must slay the beast Medusa. Several scenes later, in a gloomy maze-like palace, the monster was revealed. A purple and green snaky creature, her voice growled, her eyes flashed, and wild serpents seethed around her head–which Perseus duly chopped off. Poor Medusa. As the namesake of all swimming jellyfish, I’ve been reading up on her backstory. She started as a beautiful girl, the child of two ancient ocean deities. Athena asked the graceful Medusa to […]

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