Why Jellyfish May Become the “Cockroaches of the Sea”

jellyfish as cockroaches of the sea
Sea Nettle Jellies photo by Cherilyn Jose

While jellyfish (referred to as jellies for rest of this post since they are not “fish”) have been painted by public aquariums to be moving and floating masterpieces, the ocean itself has a different viewpoint on them. If the oceans keep getting polluted and overfished at their current rate, the ocean may soon teem with jellies and little else.

Pollution can be in the form of chemicals, like fertilizers and treated (or untreated in many parts of the world) sewage. Pollution can also be physical, like garbage. Plastic is particularly common, and all sorts of wildlife ingest it. The most well publicized plastic eaters include sea turtles who mistake not only plastic bags for jellies, but any plastic bits floating in the sea, and sea birds who have been found dead with enough plastic in their stomachs to die from starvation. With those predators dead, jellies take advantage of the increasing amount of plankton and they proliferate like crazy.

Plankton are the bottom layer of the food web. Overfishing takes out of the ocean the edible sized fish that eat plankton and other small bait fish. With their predator fish gone, plankton proliferate. Jellies love plankton, and they can easily outcompete any young fish for it. The young fish die without reproducing and therefore do not replace their parent’s generation. The seas would theoretically become empty of anything but jellies.

Off of Japan there has been a lot of overfishing, and Nomura’s jellyfish are increasing at an astonishing rate. They can grow to be 6.5 feet (2 meters) wide and weigh up to 450 pounds (220 kg)! Fishermen pull up nets with nothing but hundreds of jellyfish in them. Many nets break under the jellies massive collective weight, and one boat even capsized from them! The fishermen’s early strategy to get rid of them by slicing them up actually increased the jelly population due to the special asexual reproductive techniques of jellies. A future post will delve into this unique aspect of jellies.

Not all news relating to jellies is bad, as their tentacles have inspired scientists create a cancer detector. Scientists made a long DNA strand that mimics the sticky nature of jelly tentacles. In experiments, this long DNA strand was able to capture 80 percent of the leukemia cells (a kind cancer cell) in the blood used. For more on this, please visit “Jellyfish Inspire Cancer Detector” at the Huffington Post.

Please note that I was unable to write this post from the point-of-view of a jelly, as they do not have brains!

The Endangered Animals of Finding Nemo: Clownfish

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Nemo the clownfish from Finding Nemo

Did you know that 1 in 6 animals featured in Finding Nemo is endangered? Here’s one that may soon be listed as endangered:

Hi, I’m Nemo! In school today Mr. Ray told us that clownfish might become an endangered species. Unfortunately, humans have no idea how many of us there are in the ocean! Many divers have seen less clownfish in areas where there used to be a lot of us. This may be because humans are collecting us for pets, or because our coral reefs are sick. My dad told me that clownfish used to have to share anemones! But now where I live, there are plenty of anemones to go around.

Officially, the Center for Biological Diversity has petitioned to list clownfish under the Endangered Species Act. Surprisingly, that doesn’t mean that there are so few of us that we are endangered. What it does mean is that where we live, the coral reef, needs protection. The Endangered Species Act protects the places that endangered animals live.

Global warming warms the ocean and causes coral bleaching (see Ollie the Octopus’ post on coral bleaching). Global warming also causes the ocean to become more acidic (see Terry the Pteropod’s post on ocean acidification) . All ocean habitats are affected by pollution, especially from garbage like plastic (see Ollie the Octopus’ post on the Great Pacific Garbage Patch).

You can help me and my friends by not buying clownfish for your home aquarium. If you do, please get help from an expert and only buy captive born and bred clownfish. Please just enjoy seeing us in the ocean, in public aquariums or in Finding Nemo!

The Endangered Animals of Finding Nemo: Seahorses

seahorses, endangered species
Sheldon the Seahorse from Finding Nemo

Did you know that 1 out of 6 animals featured in Finding Nemo is endangered? Here’s one:

Hi, I’m Sheldon, the seahorse from Finding Nemo. Ahchoo! The following are characteristics I share with all other seahorses; some of them are unique only to seahorses!

1. Males get pregnant and give birth (the eggs are from mom though!)

2. Seahorses are fish, even though they have a unique body shape

3. Seahorses have no stomach so they must eat constantly

4. Seahorses have prehensile tails (like a monkey) to grab onto things (and keep us from drifting away in the current!)

5. Seahorses have bony plates all over their body for protection

6. Seahorses can change color to match their surroundings

7. There are 47 known species of seahorses

8. The largest seahorse is the Pot-bellied Seahorse at almost 14 inches (35 cm) long

9. The smallest seahorse is the Pygmy Seahorse at less than an inch (2 cm) long

10. Over 20 million seahorses are caught and sold a year

Many species of seahorses are threatened or endangered with extinction. Seahorses are caught and dried for use in Traditional Chinese Medicine, and sold as souvenirs. Live seahorses are caught for the aquarium trade.

Seahorses are also caught as by-catch in fishing nets. Seahorses are also threatened by habitat destruction. Even deforestation on land can cause silt (fine dirt) to flow onto the seagrass and coral reef areas where many seahorses live. Pollution can affect all habitats that seahorses live in, including coral reefs, seagrass areas, mangroves, and estuaries.

You can help seahorses by:

1. not buying seahorses live or dead

2. supporting marine protected areas (like national parks for the ocean)

3. reduce the pollution flowing into the ocean (remember Gill said to Nemo, “All drains lead to the ocean, kid?”)

4. support forest conservation along the coastlines where seahorses live.

Visit Project Seahorse

Endangered Species International

Ollie the Octopus on Coral Bleaching & the Great Barrier Reef

Octopus
Ollie the Octopus (photo by Cherilyn Chin)

Ollie the octopus here. I’m back to talk about more pressing problems that our oceans are facing. I previously covered ocean acidification and the
Great Pacific Garbage Patch.

Today I wanted to discuss a recent study I was told about (I’m may be smart, but I still can’t read!). This scientific study concluded that in past 30 years, half of the Great Barrier Reef (off of Australia) is gone. While I live on the same small patch of coral reef inside my cozy den, I still need live coral reefs to house and attract the food I eat!

Why did the Great Barrier Reef die? There are many reasons why, including:

1. Tropical cyclones
2. Crown-of-thorn starfish
3. Pollution
4. Coral bleaching

Coral bleaching is when the symbiotic photosynthetic zooanthellae living in corals expel themselves. They essentially commit suicide. These zooanthellae are very important to the corals, as in return for shelter, they produce food (like plants on land) for the coral. Without the zooanthellae, the corals are more likely to starve to death and die (bleach).

What causes the zooanthellae to die? The most likely culprit is a rise in seawater temperature due to global warming. So what can be done to keep the coral from bleaching? The most important thing humans can do is reduce the carbon dioxide emissions that cause global warming.

The good news is that some scientists are trying to revive bleached coral reefs by implanting live coral fragments onto them. Scientists have also attracted new coral growth to many bleached areas by running low-voltage electricity through a metal grid.

Why are coral reefs important? They are one of the most biologically diverse ecosystems on earth. In fact, 1 in 4 fish found in the ocean lives on a coral reef! And coral reefs only cover 0.1 percent of the earth’s surface!

I’m out of time, so I will cover the other culprits of coral bleaching another day. Ollie the octopus, signing off.

Articles to read:
Half of Great Barrier Reef Lost in Past 3 Decades
Low-Voltage Electricity Reviving Sick Coral Reef

The Endangered Animals of Finding Nemo: Green Sea Turtles

endangered species in Finding Nemo
Marlin, Dory, Crush & Squirt from Finding Nemo

Did you know that 1 out of 6 animals featured in the movie, Finding Nemo, are endangered? Meet one of them, the green sea turtle:

My name’s Crash. You may know my older bro Crush, dude, and my little nephew Squirt from Finding Nemo. Can you not see my awesome butt (not boat!) in the picture? Radical dude, I was in the movie too! Crush, Squirt, and I are gnarly green sea turtles, heh heh. We live in the righteous warm seawaters around the world, including off of the bodacious Australia where Finding Nemo took place.

There are 7 rad species of sea turtles ocean-wide. It’s totally bogus, but 6 or 7 species are endangered, duuude! Our righteous little eggs are often taken right out of a dudette’s nest by not so gnarly humans. Some dudettes can’t find any righteous beach to poop their eggs in, and city lights can confuse little dudes trying to use the bodacious moonlight to find the gnarly ocean to surf in for the first time, duuude!

When those little dudes and dudettes get to sea, man they better watch out for toootally bogus plastic. It’s everywhere, man. Don’t eat the plastic little dudes, but sometimes I think it’s food too bro! Plastic bags are totally bogus and look like jellies, dude! Watch out for nets too little dudes and dudettes! It’s totally not right, but there are less fishies in the ocean now and more nets to accidentally trap us. Not cool, but at least some righteous humans care! Visit SEEturtles or Sea Turtle Restoration Project to see how you can help, dudes!