Fried Eggs in Spain

Two weeks ago, I joined 220 scientists from every continent except Antarctica for five days of jam-packed gelatinous joy in Barcelona. The Jellyfish Blooms Symposium started fifteen years ago with just a few dozen or so scientists gathering in Alabama. But as many of the original conveners pointed out, both attendance and interest have bloomed over the years, not unlike the phenomenon which the meeting explores. There were so many outstanding talks and so many gems of information that I won’t be able to cram them all into my book so I’ll be covering as many of them here as I can. And to start, this blog is going to focus on just one species: the fried egg jellyfish (Cotylorhiza tuberculata), which I’m Vanna Whiting in the picture. The yolkish dome and whitish rim that make up its bell are the reason for the animal’s culinary name. And this colorful creature is common […]

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Bad-Ass Comb Jellies

Jellyfish biologists gathered at a meeting called Ctenopalooza in Florida a couple weeks ago, and dumped some big news on the jellyfish world. And in the words of my 11-year old daughter, it left me thinking, “What the poop?” Back when I first learned about comb jellies in the 80’s they were lumped together with your standard jellyfish in a big group called the coelenterates, which roughly translates to hole inside. Both these types of animals were thought to have a single hole to their bellies, which they used to bring food in and excrete waste out. Through the years, comb jellies were cleanly severed from jellyfish on the tree of life for lots of reasons. Their microscopic weaponry is really different. Their reproduction is different. Their muscle and nervous systems are very different. Their DNA is dissimilar. And their digestion is too. As reported in Science, at Ctenopalooza researcher William Browne of the University of […]

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Google Glory: Part II

And today the spin-offs arrived!   I’m super happy that the Daily Mail and Sky News went back to the original paper and picked up the amazing images that didn’t make the cut at Nat Geo’s graphics desk of moon jellyfish morphing back in their life cycle and becoming polyps. The news of moon jelly’s incredible ability to regenerate is spreading like, well, like moon jellies themselves!

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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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