Monday, July 31, 2006

Alien Moon Jellyfish Blooms

It's interesting the connection with Jellyfish and the moon

The Blob That Attacked Waikiki

They come ten days after the full moon, swarming to shore, nearly invisible and wielding poison-loaded tentacles. A few days later, they disappear just as mysteriously as they had come, leaving behind their microscopic spawn. No, this isn’t the plot of another science-fiction movie; it is a real, monthly occurrence on the beaches of Oahu, Hawaii. These creatures are aliens, but they aren’t from space. They are an alien species of box jellyfish that has been invading Hawaii’s waters for almost two decades. Lifeguards, tourists, and scientists all keep a wary vigilance for this particular box jelly, called Carybdea alata....


And then there was this story about moon jellyfish.

Jellyfish Invade the Globe, Thanks to Humans

There are exotic Frankenfish in the Potomac, unbearably noisy foreign frogs in Hawaii, and the destructive spiny water fleas that have snuck into northern lakes.

Now you can add alien moon jellyfish to the growing list of invasive species that threaten ecosystems around the planet.

Scientists announced the discovery of 16 new species of "moon jellyfish" today while also saying the creatures are invading marine environments all over the world.

"Marine organisms traverse the globe in ballast water, on ship hulls and through the trade of exotic species such as tropical fish," said study leader Mike Dawson of the University of California, Davis. "This has potential to displace local marine species, threaten ecosystems and cause billions of dollars in damage and preventive control."


This article has a more positive take on it (I think that finding new species of moon jellies is a good thing - not a bad thing ) - and a slideshow of some interesting new jellyfish and other finds.

Voyage Takes a Census of Life in the Sea

Scientists collected more than 1,000 shrimplike creatures, swimming snails and worms, and gelatinous animals, including many species never seen before, on a landmark cruise to take inventory of the ocean's zooplankton.

Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution biologist Peter Wiebe led a team of 28 scientists from 14 nations, who used fine-mesh nets to sample from the sea surface to depths of nearly three miles (five kilometers). The April 2006 cruise across the tropical Atlantic Ocean... was part of the Census of Marine Zooplankton (CMarZ) project—an ambitious global effort to assess the kinds, numbers, ranges, and roles of thousands of tiny animals species that provide the link in the marine food chain between marine plant life and predators from fish to whales.

While still at sea, experts in taxomony (the classification of organisms) identified captured species under microscopes while researchers sequenced their genes to create unique DNA “bar codes.” Future scientists will be able to identify species more easily, even if they didn't study taxonomy themselves.

“Genetic bar codes will be a big step forward,” Wiebe said. “We are trying to provide the stepping-stones so future generations can use the results of this project as a benchmark to measure at a glance how ecosystems are changing in the future.”

Survival Balls

The Yes Men presented these a couple months ago - but in case you missed it...

Their fake Halliburton site...

and photos...

The Yes Men site...

Because it's good to laugh about this stuff somehow or another.

And a new find - a site on ethics where you can Confess Anonymously or Read & Rate Ethics Confessions....

What planet are YOU from

You can find out here.

So far - I'm from the Neptune or from the Moon - depending on how I felt like answering the questions.

Of course - that only accounts for this solor system. I don't believe there were any other options.

As being from Neptune - part of the description is "You love music, poetry, dance, and (most of all) the open sea."

So that sounds about right. Though painting is really my thing.

I had always thought of myself more as a moon person. Of course it's nice to look out and see the moon - and it relates to the tides and all - so there is certainly that ocean connection as well.

Not that any planet beats the earth, of course. As far as we know.

"Sentinels Under Attack"

Part 2 on Altered Oceans

Toxic algae that poison the brain have caused strandings and mass die-offs of marine mammals — barometers of the sea's health.

Neuschwander (a California sea lion) was exhibiting the classic symptoms of domoic acid poisoning, a condition that scrambles the brains of marine mammals and causes them to wash ashore in California as predictably as the spring tides.

They pick up the acid by eating anchovies and sardines that have fed on toxic algae. Although the algae have been around for eons, they have bloomed with extraordinary intensity along the Pacific coast for the last eight years.

The blooms are part of a worldwide pattern of oceanic changes that scientists attribute to warming waters, excessive fishing, and a torrent of nutrients unleashed by farming, deforestation and urban development.


More bad news. Seagulls are having problems, also - mostly with starvation.

link: Warmer Waters Disrupt Pacific Food Chain


On these craggy, remote islands west of San Francisco, the largest seabird colony in the contiguous United States throbs with life. Seagulls swarm so thick that visitors must yell to be heard above their cries. Pelicans glide.

But the steep decline of one bird species for the second straight year has rekindled scientists' fears that global warming could be undermining the coastal food supply, threatening not just the Farallones but entire marine ecosystems.

...But not this year. Almost none of the 20,000 pairs of Cassin's auklets nesting in the Farallones will raise a chick that lives more than a few days, a repeat of last year's "unprecedented" breeding failure, according to Russ Bradley, a seabird biologist with the Point Reyes Bird Observatory who monitors the birds on the islands.

Scientists blame changes in West Coast climate patterns for a delay in the seasonal upwelling of cold, nutrient-rich waters from the ocean's depths for the second year in a row. Weak winds and faltering currents have left the Gulf of the Farallones without krill, on which Cassin's auklets and a variety of other seabirds, fish and mammals depend for food.

"The seas are warmer. And the number of krill being produced is lower," said Bradley as he held a Cassin's auklet chick, the only one from a study of 400 nests he expected to survive.

"Normally we would have hundreds," he said.

On "A Primeval Tide of Toxins" and the "Rise of Slime"

This article from the Los Angeles Times describes the problems that our oceans are having. The Jellyfish are doing well. And other slimey things.


In many places—the atolls of the Pacific, the shrimp beds of the Eastern Seaboard, the fiords of Norway—some of the most advanced forms of ocean life are struggling to survive while the most primitive are thriving and spreading. Fish, corals and marine mammals are dying while algae, bacteria and jellyfish are growing unchecked. Where this pattern is most pronounced, scientists evoke a scenario of evolution running in reverse, returning to the primeval seas of hundreds of millions of years ago....

Industrial society is overdosing the oceans with basic nutrients — the nitrogen, carbon, iron and phosphorous compounds that curl out of smokestacks and tailpipes, wash into the sea from fertilized lawns and cropland, seep out of septic tanks and gush from sewer pipes.

Modern industry and agriculture produce more fixed nitrogen —— fertilizer, essentially—than all natural processes on land. Millions of tons of carbon dioxide and nitrogen oxide, produced by burning fossil fuels, enter the ocean every day.

These pollutants feed excessive growth of harmful algae and bacteria.

At the same time, overfishing and destruction of wetlands have diminished the competing sea life and natural buffers that once held the microbes and weeds in check.

The consequences are evident worldwide.

....Jellyfish are flourishing in the soup, demonstrating their ability to adapt to wholesale changes—including the growing human appetite for them. Jellyfish have been around, after all, at least 500 million years, longer than most marine animals.


Some people are ready to adapt - fisherman who find their nets filled with jellyfish sell them to the people who eat them - mostly in China and Japan.

Some problems are not so simple. Like the Lyngbya majuscula:

"The fireweed began each spring as tufts of hairy growth and spread across the seafloor fast enough to cover a football field in an hour.

When fishermen touched it, their skin broke out in searing welts. Their lips blistered and peeled. Their eyes burned and swelled shut. Water that splashed from their nets spread the inflammation to their legs and torsos."


People have gotten so good at fishing - what with "industrial fleets with sonar, satellite data and global positioning systems" the the big fish in the oceans have declined by 90% over 50 years. Meanwhile - in some places - jellyfish have had a 10-fold increase.

So we lose things - we gain things. One door closes - another door opens. In this case - the door is being shut on tuna, cod and grouper and it's being opened to squids, crabs, sea urchins, jellyfish - and other slimey things.

Nature has it's way of figuring out a balance. As people we are shutting the doors on ourselves.