Posted by: Corina Paraschiv | April 9, 2009

Japan’s Jellyfish issues

It’s three AM and a team of two researchers are out on the beach in Florida, collecting specimens.  Delicately, they cut the tentacules of the jellyfish they hold by the head.  Their goal: to uncover the misteries of these animals.  And it’s no joke: the animal, although very pretty, could kill even a human using only 6-8 of its tentacules for about 120 seconds.  Some specimens, near Hawaii, have been roaming the seas in even more dangereous ways.  The aboriginals there have been talking since long about “a lurky presence”, an evil spirit.  After a series of serious incidents happen, a doctor, who keeps receiving patients over with bites of jellyfish which no one seems to see in the water, goes into the sea…and finally catches a mini jellyfish, of about an inch long.  Thousands of them lurk in these waters.  To prove they truly are dangerous, the doctor cuts himself, the lifeguard on duty and his own son, and all three end up in the hostpital, with all the usual symptoms.  Headache.  Muscle cramps.  Nausea.  They survive.  But many are not so lucky and die.  Science, for the moment, cannot combat this special venom.

Unlike all other species, the jellyfish use a venom that attacks all the system at the same time: neurological, nervous, etc, and destroys the red cells.  And they are multiplying like crazy. 

In the waters of Japan, they appear by the billions, and up until very recently, the Japanese could not figure out from where.  It seems today that they have traced the jellyfish back from the Yellow Sea of China, in Shanghai, where the water — polluted — is perfect for the jellyfish to reproduce; it only takes a small change – in the temperature of the water, in the pollution level – for the eggs, which could have been dormant for half a decade in some cases, to hatch and make baby jellyfish.  This phenomenon is happening at all corners of the globe, but Japan has decided to act.

Its government has sponsored special killing nets which go through the water, slicing any jellyfish it encounters.  The scientists in Japan however, are wondering whether that very thing could be an effort that does more harm than good; it has been discovered that, when the jellyfish are about to die, in a last effort to save their own species, the sperm and eggs get released into the ocean, by the thousands and thousands.  Hence, by trying to kill them, therefore, the Japanese government may accidently be encouraging its population growth!

What an ennemy the world is now confronted with!  When threaten to die, sliced or from an environmental change, the species starts booming more than ever.  Having been around for long and having survived the ice age, and many different environmental changes, the time has come when jellyfish are taking the sea over by billions once more.  Some animal such as turtles, are equiped to touch, even digest those creatures, without being infected by the poison.  So an antidote does exist.  For the moment, it remains a mystery.  Watch out for the jellyfish signs on your next beach visit!


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