11 Electrifying Facts about Jellyfish

Some are longer than a blue whale. Others are barely larger than a grain of sand. One species unleashes one of the most deadly venoms on Earth. Another holds a secret that’s behind some of the greatest breakthroughs in biology. In every way, jellyfish are fascinating creatures and today we’re celebrating them with 11 wild facts!

1. Jellyfish have inhabited the ocean for at least half a billion years, and they’re still flourishing even as the sea changes around them.

2. Jellyfish are soft-bodied sea creatures that aren’t really fish. They’re part of a diverse team of gelatinous zooplankton, zooplankton being animals that drift in the ocean.

3. A noted feature of jellyfish is a translucent bell made of a soft delicate material called mesoglea. Sandwiched between two layers of skin, the mesoglea is more than 95% water held together by protein fibers. The jellyfish can contract and relax their bells to propel themselves. They don’t have a brain or a spinal cord, but a neural net around the bell’s inner margin forms a rudimentary nervous system that can sense the ocean’s currents and the touch of other animals.

4. Jellyfish don’t have typical digestive systems, either. These gelatinous carnivores consume plankton and other small sea creatures through a hole in the underside of their bells.

5. The nutrients that jellyfish consume are absorbed by an inner layer of cells with waste excreted back through their mouths.

6. One species of jellyfish glows green when it’s agitated, mostly thanks to a biofluorescent compound called green fluorescent protein, or GFP. Scientists isolated the gene for GFP and figured out how to insert it into the DNA of other cells. There, it acts like a biochemical beacon, marking genetic modifications, or revealing the path of critical molecules. Scientists have used the glow of GFP to watch cancer cells proliferate, track the development of Alzheimer’s, and illuminate countless other biological processes. Developing the tools and techniques from GFP has netted three scientists a Nobel Prize in 2008, and another three in 2014.

7. The jellyfish’s sting, which helps it capture prey and defend itself, is its most infamous calling card. In the jelly’s epidermis, cells called nematocysts lie coiled like poisonous harpoons. When they’re triggered by contact, they shoot with an explosive force. It exerts over 550 times the pressure of Mike Tyson’s strongest punch to inject venom into the victim. 

8. The venom of one box jellyfish can kill a human in under five minutes, making it one of the most potent venoms of any animal in the world.

9. Jellyfish who may be the most successful organisms on Earth. There are more than 1,000 species of jellyfish, and many others that are often mistaken for them.

10. Ancient fossils prove that jellyfish have inhabited the seas for at least 500 million years, and maybe go back over 700 million. That’s longer than any other multi-organ animal. And as other marine animals are struggling to survive in warmer and more acidic oceans, the jellyfish are thriving, and perhaps getting even more numerous.

11. Some jellyfish can lay as many as 45,000 eggs in a single night. And there’s some jellyfish whose survival strategy almost sounds like science fiction. When the immortal jellyfish is sick, aging, or under stress, its struggling cells can change their identity. The tiny bell and tentacles deteriorate and turn into an immature polyp that spawns brand new clones of the parent.

From the TED-Ed Lesson Jellyfish predate dinosaurs. How have they survived so long? - David Gruber

Animation by Silvia Prietov

New Research Shows That Bioluminescence Evolved Frequently in Fish

New research shows that bioluminescence—a phenomenon in which organisms generate visible light through a chemical reaction—evolved many more times among marine fishes, and likely throughout the entire tree of life, than previously thought. In a study published in the journal PLOS ONE, scientists from the American Museum of Natural History, St. Cloud State University, and the University of Kansas reveal that bioluminescence evolved 27 times in marine ray-finned fishes—and 29 times if sharks and rays are counted. Here are some of these amazing bioluminescent fish:

This ceratioid anglerfish has a built-in fishing rod, a modified fin spine topped with a lure that pulses with bacterial light. Anglerfishes are the only animals known to light up in two ways: the genus Linophryne has glowing bacteria in the lure and their own chemicals that make light in a complex chin barbel.
Image: © J. Sparks, R. Schelly, D. Roje

The deep-sea hatchetfish, which gets its name from the distinct hatchet-like shape of its body, has light-producing organs known as photophores that run along the length of their body and point downward. Hatchetfishes use these structurally complex photophores to mimic any down-welling sunlight and disappear from predators lurking below.
Image: © J. Sparks, R. Schelly, D. Roje

Barbeled dragonfish 
This barbeled dragonfish is a small bioluminescent deep-sea fish with a long protrusion attached to its chin, known as a barbel, which is tipped with a light-producing organ called a photophore. It also has large photophores below its eyes used to illuminate prey and potentially communicate, and along the sides of its body for camouflage.
Image: © J. Sparks, R. Schelly, D. Roje

Stoplight loosejaw
A stoplight loosejaw (Malacosteus niger), which is capable of engulfing prey nearly as large as its own body. It has both red and blue/green photophores under its eyes. Its primary prey source, Euphausid shrimp, cannot detect red light. The loosejaw uses this “private” wavelength of light to illuminate and hunt the shrimp.
Image: © Christopher Martinez

Learn more about this research. 


Scientists developed a special camera so we can fully appreciate glow-in-the-dark sharks

The concept of glow-in-the-dark sharks is infinitely intriguing, so naturally, science developed a new camera, the better to see them with. As the Washington Post reported, its lens mimics the eye of a shark, allowing researchers to see sharks as they see one another whilst sharking around in the deep sea. Here’s what they discovered about the colors the sharks glow.

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NEW RESEARCH: Glowing Shark Patterns Get Brighter in Deep Water

A team of researchers led by scientists from the Museum has found that catsharks are not only able to see the bright green biofluorescence they produce, but that they increase contrast of their glowing pattern when deep underwater. The study, conducted with a custom-built “shark-eye” camera that simulates how the sharks see underwater, shows that that fluorescence helps catsharks see each other and may even offer them a way to communicate. The work was recently published in the journal Scientific Reports.

“We’ve already shown that catsharks are brightly fluorescent, and this work takes that research a step further, making the case that biofluorescence makes them easier to see by members of the same species,” said John Sparks, a curator in the Museum’s Department of Ichthyology and a co-author on the paper.

Read the full story on the Museum blog. 

Footage and Image: © J. Sparks, D. Gruber, and V. Pieribone

anonymous asked:




it’s not even there at first

Derek kinda just tells these two bumbling idiots to get off his property and ends up, for reasons known only to whatever higher power exists to fuck with his life, stuck with them

and it’s not there, it’s not present in the first scent that he files away under the heading ‘Stiles’ in his head, which is slightly salty and warm but lacking in substance, a little like stale popcorn

Derek doesn’t think twice about it

a person’s scent can and does change throughout their life and it usually coincides with major life events

becoming sexually mature for one

the change happens gradually. Derek’s realisation does not

it goes like this

Keep reading

NEW RESEARCH: Glowing Shark Patterns Get Brighter in Deep Water 

A team of researchers led by scientists from the Museum has found that catsharks are not only able to see the bright green biofluorescence they produce, but that they increase contrast of their glowing pattern when deep underwater. The study, conducted with a custom-built “shark-eye” camera that simulates how the sharks see underwater, shows that that fluorescence helps catsharks see each other and may even offer them a way to communicate. The work was recently published in the journal Scientific Reports.

Read the full story.

Video: © J. Sparks, D. Gruber, and V. Pieribone

Museum Researchers Discover Glowing Sea Turtles

For creatures that live underwater, it can be hard to get light, so many marine species have developed specializations to make their own light, a trait called bioluminescence. Others repurpose the light that does get through to them, sending it out in different colors, which is known as biofluorescence. Recently, researchers with the Museum made the first observation of biofluorescence in a wild sea turtle—one which glowed in bright neon hues when viewed under a blue light.

Previously, biofluorescence has been observed in many marine creatures, including corals and fishes. But late last year, marine biologist David Gruber, a professor at Baruch College and a research associate at the Museum, captured the first footage of a sea turtle exhibiting the trait.

While the garishly colored light produced by biofluorescence is usually not visible to the human eye, the use of specialized blue excitation lights and green emission filters can reveal it. On a night dive in the Solomon Islands, Gruber encountered an endangered hawksbill sea turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata) that swam near the blue LED light he was using to excite biofluorescence in nearby corals. To his surprise, the turtle also lit up, exhibiting bright shades of neon green and red. The results of further study on the phenomena were published in the journal American Museum Novitates by Gruber and co-author John Sparks, curator in the Museum’s Department of Ichthyology.

But is the sea turtle actually what is biofluorescing? Learn more

Video: National Geographic

Earlier today, Curator and Ichthyologist John Sparks participated in a Facebook Live broadcast explaining and demonstrating the phenomena of biofluorescence and bioluminescence using specimens such as a chain catshark, a black dragonfish, and a deepwater anglerfish (pictured). 

Watch the Facebook Live video and learn more about Sparks’ recent research on bioluminescence

Scientists have identified more than 180 species of fishes that glow in a wide range of colors and patterns. The research shows that biofluorescence—a phenomenon by which organisms absorb light, transform it, and eject it as a different color—is common and variable among marine fish species, indicating its potential use in communication and mating. The report opens the door for the discovery of new fluorescent proteins that could be used in biomedical research.

Learn more.


Transgenic Biofluorescent Animals Part 2

The green fluorescent protein (GFP) is a protein that exhibits bright green fluorescence when exposed to light in the blue to ultraviolet range. Although many other marine organisms have similar green fluorescent proteins, GFP traditionally refers to the protein first isolated from the jellyfish Aequorea victoria. Jellyfish-derived GFP has been engineered to produce a vast number of useful blue, cyan and yellow mutants, and fluorescent proteins from a variety of other species have also been identified, resulting in further expansion of the available color palette into the orange, red and far-red spectral regions. Together, these highly useful genetically encoded probes are broadly referred to as fluorescent proteins  The FP gene can be introduced into organisms and maintained in their genome through breeding, injection with a viral vector, or cell transformation. Green fluorescent protein has transformed biomedical research. Using a gene that carries instructions to make GFP, scientists can attach harmless glow-in-the-dark tags to selected proteins, either in cells in lab dishes or inside living creatures, to track their activity. It’s like shining a flashlight on the inner workings of cells. These days, scientists can track how cancer cells spread, how HIV infections progress and even which male ends up fertilizing a female fruit fly’s egg. These and many other studies that offer insight into human health all benefit from a green, glowing protein first found in a sea creature.

New research reveals the covert world of fish bioluminescence

A team of researchers led by scientists from the American Museum of Natural History has released the first report of widespread biofluorescence in the tree of life of fishes, identifying more than 180 species (!) that glow in a wide range of colors and patterns.

“We’ve long known about biofluorescence underwater in organisms like corals, jellyfish, and even in land animals like butterflies and parrots, but fish biofluorescence has been reported in only a few research publications,” said Museum Curator John Sparks. “This paper is the first to look at the wide distribution of biofluorescence across fishes, and it opens up a number of new research areas.”

Keep reading here.

Image: © PLOS ONE

Pictured is a red fluorescing scorpionfish (Scorpaenopsis papuensis) perched on red fluorescing algae at night in the Solomon Islands.

Now on view, Capturing the Ocean’s Glow, an immersive 360-degree film in the Geodome. Discover a rich underwater world of glowing reefs and fishes in spectacular footage from a recent Museum expedition to the Solomon Islands. This short film is free with Museum admission and can be viewed daily during Museum hours in the Geodome, located in the Milstein Hall of Ocean Life, now through May 31.


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Thoughts on Shark Week 2015

This year’s Shark Week was so much improved! There was a much higher focus on science, biodiversity and conservation, and a lot less sensationalism and pseudoscience. So if you had decided to not tune in this year after last year’s disappointments, I advise you to give it a try! I have listed below some of my favorite episodes that really are worth the watch. 

Originally posted by leonettaisas

This 3rd installment of Alien Sharks was incredible. I am still slightly obsessed with this episode. I could feel the rush of adrenaline as they were tagging the megamouth shark just sitting on my couch! SO.MUCH.SCIENCE. I loved it! I learned about biofluorescence (i have to make a separate blog post about that) which I honestly didn’t even know existed until then! The megamouth (I also have to make a separate blog post about that!) expedition was just insane. Can we get a follow-up on that once the tag gets released? I’m not sure when they tagged the shark/when this episode was filmed. I need to know the results! 

Sharks of Cuba was also one of my favorites. It focused on a joint U.S.-Cuban team of scientists studying the sharks of Cuba. The area they were in really goes to show how wonderful Marine Protected Areas are. The reefs there were gorgeous, and the silky sharks and remoras shown on screen were huge! You could tell the ecosystem around the island is thriving, undisturbed. We got to see the first tagging of a shark in Cuba, as well as the tagging of a rare longfin Mako! 

Ninja Sharks are also incredible. I LOVE learning about all those more ‘obscure’ sharks, like the Salmon shark and Thresher shark, and what their ‘ninja’ skills are. Loved all the graphs and scientific facts! Shark Planet was a 2 hour recut of the BBC Earth "Sharks" series, and it was AWESOME. I mean, we all know the BBC wildlife documentaries are incredible, so I wasn’t expecting anything less. We saw so many shark species, and some shark behavior that we never really saw before (epaulette sharks walking across land, what?!). 

Originally posted by coloredyouth

Overall, I was quite satisfied with this year’s show. There were still some very low lows (a Great White serial killer? “Oh there were two attacks 2 years apart right here so this must be the same shark”), but also some very high highs (ALIEN SHARKS!), and a lot of good things in between. 

Here is my personal list:

The AMAZING:  Alien Sharks, Ninja Sharks, Sharks of Cuba, Planet Shark

The Good:  Monster Mako, Shark Trek, Shark Clan

The Meh Okay:  Island of the Mega Shark, Bride of Jaws, Shark Island, Shark of the Shadowlands

The Bad: Super Predator, Return of the Great White Serial Killer

Shark Week definitely really needs to keep steering away from the speculation and sensationalism of Super Predators and Serial Killers and shark bite reenactments. I wish for less Great White Shark drama (although you may continue the Shark Trek series), and more endangered, rare and weird species (Salmon shark! Thresher Shark! Megamouth!! Yes please).  I give you two thumbs up, Discovery Channel, for moving in the right direction and turning this program around! Keep it going, and I look forward to next year.

Originally posted by tessasmile


On Wednesday, February 3, PBS stations will present “Creatures of Light” a NOVA special that introduces viewers to the spectacular light shows being put on by underwater animals.

“Creatures of Light” features interviews with John Sparks, curator-in-charge of  the Museum’s Department of Ichthyology, whose research focuses on the ways that fishes and other marine life produce light in an array of colors, through both bioluminescensce—producing their own light, usually through chemical means—and bifluorescence, which involves absorbing light and emitting it as a different color.

Watch more videos of this phenomenon. 

Curator’s Picks: John Sparks on Life at the Limits

John Sparks was born to be an ichthyologist. He loved fish since boyhood, nurturing cichlids in a home aquarium, and was certified as a scuba diver when he was just 16. As curator-in-charge in the Museum’s Department of Ichthyology, Dr. Sparks has studied freshwater fishes in Madagascar, blind cavefishes, and, more recently, a variety of bioluminescent and biofluorescent fishes around the world. 

Here, he shares a favorite creature visitors can learn more about in the new exhibition Life at the Limits, which he co-curated, and talks about some of the most exciting species he’s encountered in his career. 

Does he have a favorite species from the exhibition? “There are so many to choose from, but I would have to say the treehopper,” says Sparks, calling out a harmless, plant-eating insect (Cyphonia clavata) with a structure on its back that resembles the venomous turtle ant (Cephalotes atratus). 

The treehopper is among the many different species that mimic ants, which can be venomous, have a painful sting, or taste acrid—any of which might scare off a predator. This species has never been observed using the “ant” as protection, so its purpose in this case is conjecture, says Sparks. 

Read more from John Sparks on the Museum blog