Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Jellyfish Madness

Beneath the ocean waves lies a whole other world. Biology is vast and widely undiscovered in our oceans and habitats range from kelp forests, to coral reefs, and far beyond. Earlier this week we had a post that mentioned some of the causes and conditions of “underwater lakes”, which can be found here:http://on.fb.me/ZZNnIu. And just as there are “underwater lakes” there are also “underwater deserts” or dead zones that prevent most aquatic life from flourishing. Some of these dead zones are caused by natural processes however recent studies conducted by NOAA and other agencies have determined that; surprise, surprise, humans haven’t helped.

In fact, there is a dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico, the second largest one in the world that has varies in size from about 15,539 km2 –18,129 km2 (6,000 mi2 – 7,000 mi2) and it is expected to reach 23,309 km2 (9,000 mi2) in the near future. To put that in perspective, the state of New Jersey covers about 22,608 km² (8,729 mi2).

Dead zones are also commonly referred to as hypoxia, which basically means lack of oxygen, and their causes often relate to, but are not limited to nutrient pollution from underwater pipelines containing wastewater and other polluting compositions. When leaked into the ocean, these substances can generate an overgrowth in algae, which deplete the water of oxygen and hinder other life such as fish, crustaceans, and coral from otherwise thriving.

Although life is hard to come by in these aquatic deserts one species in particular finds the hypoxic environment quite settling: the Noruma Jellyfish. These particular jellyfish can grow up to over 200 kg (≈ 450 lbs) and they can reproduce pretty efficiently. They feed on tiny plankton and have very few predators in the dead zones so once a small population forms it is a quick downward spiral for the already struggling environment.

These dead zones are tough to deal with. Since humans are a main contributor towards them, initiatives should be taken on our end if we want to see these dead zones become more oxygen-enriched and habitable for fish and other ocean-going creatures. Without action, there’s no telling when this jellyfish bloom will end. Just think about it; an ocean full of jellyfish. I’m not sure if any of us would vouch for that option.

Photo Credit:


1. http://oceanservice.noaa.gov/facts/deadzone.html
2. http://oceanservice.noaa.gov/education/classroom/lessons/13_ecoforecasting_deadzone.pdf
3. http://www.examiner.com/article/jellyfish-invasion-is-a-bad-sign-for-spreading-ocean-dead-zones
4. http://www.gulfhypoxia.net/news/default.asp?XMLFilename=201106200953.xml
5. http://serc.carleton.edu/microbelife/topics/deadzone/index.html
6. http://www.lauriesliltykechildcare.com/nomurasjellyfish.htm

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