Archive for the 'Jellies' Category



Animal Updates – April 13

Between our Baltimore and Washington, DC, venues, more than 17,500 animals representing 900 species call the National Aquarium home. There are constant changes, additions, and more going on behind the scenes that our guests may not notice during their visit. We want to share these fun updates with our community so we’re bringing them to you in our weekly Animal Update posts!

Check our WATERlog blog every Friday to find out what’s going on… here’s what’s new this week!

Baby Spotted Lagoon Jellies
Mastigias papua 

Our jellies lab welcomed a special delivery from the Oklahoma Aquarium: baby lagoons! They’re about a month and a half old right now, and we’ve never had this species this young before. Right now, they’re developing and growing in our jellies lab, and once they reach about four or five months old they’ll be big enough to go on exhibit.

Baby lagoon jelly

Right now they look just like tiny blue blubber jellies, but as they grow, they’ll develop spots and lose their bluish tint. Since they arrived, they’ve already started to sprout tentacles, and spots are appearing along the edges of the bells.

Jelly's first tentacle!

Quite a bit goes into giving these jellies what they need to grow and thrive. They have a high metabolism, so they’re fed at least three times a day, sometimes more. These sun-loving jellies are kept under a special metal halide light, which is a different spectrum than regular lights. Spotted lagoon jellies have a symbiotic relationship with the algae that live in them; the algae need the light to photosynthesize, and the jellies eat the waste products the algae make in the process.

Older spotted lagoon jelly

Breeding Season for Sand Tiger Sharks
Carcharias taurus
You may see staff members observing and monitoring the behavior of the sand tiger sharks in our Open Ocean exhibit. It’s breeding season for these sharks, and sometimes the males can get a bit aggressive.

Sand tiger shark

Did you know? Female sand tiger sharks do not have the expected single uterus – each female has two, and babies develop in both at the same time. In each separate uterus, the unborn pups eat each other and devour any still-unfertilized eggs until only one remains. Eventually one baby is born from each uterus – talk about survival of the fittest!

Be sure to check back every Friday to find out what’s happening!

A real waterfront invasion

If you’ve been anywhere near the National Aquarium, Baltimore, in the last few days, you’ve probably noticed the invasion of jellies! And no, we aren’t referring to the jellies on exhibit that arrived last summer during Baltimore’s Waterfront Invasion. We’re talking about jellies that are popping up in the Baltimore harbor water right now.

The jellies we are seeing in the harbor are Atlantic sea nettles (Chrysaora quinquecirrha), and we typically see them in the Inner Harbor in their largest numbers in the early fall season. Jellies go with the flow of the water, so currents often play a role in their sudden appearance.

There are multiple reasons jellies invade the water this time of year. Usually the late summer months (July/August) are our driest, so the salinity of the water is a bit higher due to the lack of input of freshwater drain-off.  And for jellies, the saltier the water, the better.

Their population size also grows through the summer due to warm water temperatures and abundance of food. A single mature Atlantic sea nettle can release as many as 45,000 eggs every day. Fertile eggs settle on the bottom  to form polyps that resemble tiny sea anemones. These eggs lay dormant through the cold winter months, and when water temperatures rise in the spring and early summer, each polyp starts producing and releasing hundreds of tiny free-swimming sea nettles.

This stage of life is called the medusa phase. In the warm summer water they grow rapidly into adults that start producing even more sea nettles for the cycle to continue.

This boom of the harbor sea nettles will come to an end as the water temperatures start to drop. By the end of October or early November, the medusa phase will die off completely, as this species is unable to digest food in cold water. The polyp stage of the Atlantic sea nettles will survive through the winter to start next year’s crop of sea nettles.

Other species of jellies (e.g., lion’s mane jellies) thrive in cold water.  Locally, we may see Leidy’s comb jellies and moon jellies this fall, so be on the lookout!

And if you really want to see an invasion of all types of jellies, stop by our exhibit or check out our jellies website.

What’s behind the sting?

This weekend marks the start official start of beach season! Every year around this time we start to hear more about jellies because people see them while visiting beaches and swimming in oceans. But unfortunately, the interactions we tend to have with jellies in the ocean are not very pleasant ones.

Recently, a young girl from Australia was the chatter among medical experts around the world for her amazing recovery from a “deadly” jellyfish sting. We all know that jellies have the power to inflict pain to us humans, and have heard that some jellies can even be deadly.  So is her survival of a box jelly sting a miracle?

Box jellies are not a part of the Jellies Invasion exhibit, so our experts don’t have to deal with them on a daily basis. But when asked, Aquarist Vicky Poole said, “As this is a creature with one of the most toxic venoms in the world, I’d say it was a miracle.”

The odds of surviving a severe box jelly envenomation is extremely rare. Box jelly stings have a 20% mortality rate, which includes both severe and mild cases, but the extent of the sting, covering her entire leg, is what makes her survival such a surprise for her doctors.

So what’s behind the sting? Jellies are animals without brains (or hearts, for that matter), so there is no “decision” about stinging. They indiscriminately will sting anything they happen to bump into – prey (for food) or predator (for defense). Vicky reminds us that it’s really their survival strategy…sting first and ask no questions later!

What happens when a jelly stings? Their tentacles have tiny microscopic stinging cells called “nematocysts” that look like fishing harpoons with barbs that penetrate our skin, and then stay in place while the venom is injected into the body of the victim. There is often pain at the site, and usually you’ll notice localized swelling or welts due to the skin’s reaction to the toxins. Depending on the species of jelly, the body’s reaction will vary in severity, and some people have a more severe reaction than others. In extremely toxic species, severe reactions may involve difficulty breathing, coma, or even death.

Let’s bust some myths – can anything really treat a sting? Although weak acids (like vinegar) and very hot water have been reportedly used to neutralize jelly stings, your body will still react to the venom in your system so pain management is needed. And if you’re in areas where dangerous species of jellies exist, Vicki suggests that you seek medical attention immediately. After all, she’s no doctor, just a humble jelly aquarist!

Even though these brainless, heartless creatures instill fear among beach-goers around the world, they are truly fascinating creatures that are an important part of our marine ecosystem. This summer before you hit the beach, we invite you learn more about jellies. You can start by exploring the Jellies Invasion: Oceans Out of Balance website!

Jellies inspired art

The moment visitors set foot in Jellies Invasion they are captivated, and often surprised, by the beauty of the jellies. Their vibrant colors and pulsing movements are magnificent, and leave people memorized and maybe even inspired.

With this in mind we invited members from Hamilton Art Gallery, a small gallery located on Hamilton Lauraville Main Street in North East Baltimore City, in to see the Jellies earlier this fall. The artists spent time admiring our “living lava lamps” and indeed went home inspired. Since that visit the members of Hamilton Art created an entire collection of jellies artwork that includes photography, paintings, and more. Their work will be on display at the gallery beginning January 8th.

Hamilton-Lauraville Main Street, Inc. will host an opening event at Hamilton Gallery on Friday, January 8, 2010 from 6-9 p.m. Representatives from the National Aquarium will be on hand to share information about Jellies Invasion and the artists will be exhibiting their work in the galleries, and in local restaurants and storefronts. The artwork will be on display throughout the month of January. Click here for more details.

Are you feeling inspired? Click here to see some awesome photos of Jellies provided by our visitors. You can upload your own Jellies photography by joining our Flickr group.

Jellies, jellies everywhere

If you have been to the beach or out on a boat recently you have probably encountered a jelly or two, perhaps even more. This is the time of year that jellies are most prevalent in the mid-atlantic region. So why do we see so many of them during the summer??

Jellies are found in most bodies of water, including the Atlantic Ocean, the Chesapeake Bay, and even in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor. In fact, some Aquarium employees saw a bunch of comb jellies in the harbor earlier this morning.  In this region, most jellies are seasonal. The greatest variety of jellies are found in the lower bay, in the coastal bays and, offshore in the Atlantic Ocean were salinities are higher. Some of the more common species include:jelly on beach small

  • Moon Jellies, (pictured to the right) found in the Lower Bay and Atlantic Ocean. In the summer months the remains of moon jellies can often be found washed up on the beaches, but they rarely sting people.
  • Atlantic Sea Nettles, found in the middle and lower bay and seen in late spring, summer and early fall and the most likely to sting you. They sting thousands of beach-goers each season!
  • Comb Jellies, found throughout the bay and ocean year-round but most commonly seen in the warmer months. Comb jellies do not have the ability to sting.
  • Lion’s Mane Jellies, found in the bay from late November through May, also known as the winter jelly and also deliver a powerful sting.

Continue reading ‘Jellies, jellies everywhere’


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