Mysterious Technicolor Jellies

It’s been a colorful week in new jelly species. News media in Australia has been abuzz with stories of a crayon-purple jellyfish that’s been washing up on beaches from the Sunshine Coast north of Brisbane to Port Macquarie, half way to Sydney. The peculiar jelly has a bell about the size of a dinner plate and thin mouth-arms that stretch three feet. These idiosyncratic appendages make Lisa-ann Gershwin, one of Australia’s most prominent taxonomists, think it could be a new species in the genus Thysanostoma. But the coloring is curious, she says, most members have a brownish ombre. On the other side of the world, researchers from Italy have ID’ed a golden jellyfish as Pelagia benovici, which means it’s the only cousin of the mauve stinger that’s plagued French and Spanish coasts, as well as decimated salmon farms in Ireland. Last winter, this animal bloomed profusely near Venice, with thousands at a time pulled up in fishermen’s […]

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Man o’ War

Like me, Iraqi-British artist Athelier Mousawi has found a muse in jellyfish. He paints huge canvases bursting with bright colors and boundaries that scream around curves and screech to a halt at corners. This tension between intertwined organic forms meticulously restrained by clean edges creates a harmonious chaos of color and contour that is both surprising and gorgeous. Although he was born in London, Mousawi’s family is Iraqi, and he calls Iraq “the center of gravity in my life.” As Mousouwi meditated on the war, and in particular the unmanned drones that that ravaged his family’s homeland, he conjured the idea of jellyfish. “Watching them [drones] gliding, they are so deadly, but also innocent in a way. I started making this parallel with the jellyfish in that neither of them have a central brain, but they both hunt and kill. They have a calmness of […]

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In My Grandma’s Footprint

My grandma ended her 102 years peacefully on April 15, 2014. Ever since then, reels of her life have been playing haphazardly though my mind. I see Grandma plucking small, sour cherries from the tree in the corner of her backyard. She looks up and strikes a bargain with the birds, “Ok, you can have the fruit at the top if you leave me what’s at the bottom.” I see myself standing next to her as she rummages through her basement refrigerator. She pulls out cottage cheese containers filled with frozen blocks of chunky applesauce, matzah ball soup, or gefilte fish. The contents of each tub are penciled in spidery European handwriting on masking tape. Around us, the 2x4s of the unfinished basement walls serve as makeshift shelves for her expansive collection of more cottage cheese containers and sherbet tubs. I don’t remember my grandma […]

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Peanutbutter Jellyfish

When you think jelly, don’t you naturally think peanut butter? So it’s conceivable that if you are someone who spends your days working with jellyfish, the wild idea to try to grow your brood on peanut butter might flit through your mind. But the fact that aquarist Zelda Montoya tried it, and got it to work, well that’s a jellyfish of a different color. Literally. Her peanut butter jellyfish turned a buttery brown after feeding. Montoya, a jellyfish aquarist at the Children’s Aquarium at Fair Park in Dallas, says her baby jellyfish usually eat brine shrimp, also known as Sea Monkeys. Once in a while, she feeds them a treat: a protein shake made of whatever frozen fish and shrimp she finds in the aquarium’s freezer. “I tend to drink a lot of protein shakes myself. And peanut butter was one I was drinking often. So I thought, […]

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A Winning Lottery Ticket

“More Canadian-produced Crown Royal is shipped to Texas than anywhere else,” explained Canadian Ambassador Gary Doer speaking to the Jackson School of Geosciences at UT just before spring break. Tall, distinguished, with a shock of gray-hair, Doer added, “I think it would be easier to get whiskey in a pipeline to Texas than oil.” The quip was aimed at the elephant in the room, the controversial Keystone-XL Pipeline, which is intended to ferry oil from the tar sands of central Canada to refineries near Houston. Environmental groups have launched attacks on the pipeline and their loud opposition grabbed the attention of the Democrats, including President Obama, who has delayed giving the project his approval for almost five years. Demonstrating Canada’s awareness of and involvement with key environmental issues, Doer reminded the audience of the Montreal Protocol, signed in Canada, which brought together the entire world to bar […]

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Jellyfish in Japan

Pregnant

I walked through the grocery store with a secret. I put the individual cups of mac-and-cheese that I found so repulsive, but that my kids clamored for, in my cart. Still, inside I was smiling. I swung my cart past the boxes and boxes of Technicolor cereal, pulled a cartoon-emblazoned brand off the shelf, and nonetheless gloated. I loaded snack-sized metalized polypropelyne bags of air-riddled, cheese-flavored corn puffs on my pile–and my heart soared anyway. Because I knew something no one else around me knew.

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