Attack of the Jellyfish!

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Imagine a predator that is silent, nearly invisible, and covered in paralyzing tentacles.  Scared?  If you plan on visiting the New Jersey shore this summer, you should be.  Although the ever-growing numbers of jelly fish along the coast are relatively absent from the ocean waves, they are thriving in the Barnegat Bay.  Just across the barrier island, opposite the Atlantic Ocean, lays an amassing swarm of sea nettles.

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I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Dr. Michael Kennish, a professor and active researcher from the Marine and Coastal Sciences at Rutgers University, and the research coordinator at the Jacques Cousteau National Estuarine Research Reserve in Tuckerton, New Jersey.  Dr. Kennish specializes in the study of anthropogenic impacts on the environment, and is one of the leading experts on the health of the Barnegat Bay and Little Egg Harbor watersheds.

Sea nettles (Chrysaora quinquecirrha), which are native to the Barnegat Bay, have been rapidly increasing in number in the past few years (Barnegat Bay Partnership).  Dr. Kennish explained that the jellies’ population growth can be traced back directly to human activity, and that “eutrophication and bulkhead construction” are largely to blame.

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As Kennish pointed out to me during the interview, many people are unaware that sea nettles, during their life cycle, exist in a polyp (sessile) form, as well as a medusa (free-“swimming”) form.  During their polyp stage (pictured above), the sea nettle clings to a rock or some other hard surface. For this reason, bulkheads provide ample space for jellyfish polyps to develop into their stinging, medusa stage.

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And sting they do.  Almost anyone who has swum in the Barnegat Bay can attest to the annoying nature of the jelly swarm.  In many parts of the bay, especially in the northern end, it is impossible to dive into the water during the summer without suffering a sting.  The video below briefly details the rise of jellyfish populations in the bay, and the reaction of the local residents.

In order to reduce populations of this nuisance species, drastic measures must be taken.  Dr. Kennish argues that the Barnegat Bay watershed is at “carrying capacity,” and cannot support any further human population growth.  If you want to learn about how you can help, click here!

References:

http://bbp.ocean.edu/pages/1.asp

http://toxics.usgs.gov/definitions/eutrophication.html

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One Response to “Attack of the Jellyfish!”

  1. Attack of the Jellyfish! « Nick's Vivarium Says:

    […] Also (NJsurfriderdrafts) […]

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