Posts Tagged 'baby jellyfish'

A Delicate Balance: Inside the Jellies Lab

Described as mesmerizing, beautiful, even otherworldly, jellies are unique in the animal kingdom. Not technically fish, they have no heart, brain, blood or bones and are 95 percent water.

Most closely related to corals and anemones, their pulsing translucent bod­ies drift an unchoreographed dance based mostly on water currents, not choice.

The full life cycle of these incredible animals actually takes place at the Aquarium, as baby jellies grow up and are cultured by skilled aquarists in what is referred to as the jellies lab.

Bringing Up Jelly

Jennie Janssen, Manager of Changing Exhibits, is in charge of the jellies lab, located on Pier 5 in the Institute of Marine and Environmental Technology, and Jellies Invasion: Oceans Out of Balance on Pier 4 inside the National Aquarium.

Janssen and her team of aquarists are responsible for many species, includ­ing moon jellies, lion’s mane jellies and Atlantic sea nettles.

In the lab, the Jellies team cares for a community of jellies, raising them until they are large enough to go on exhibit. Sometimes there are hundreds of babies being cul­tured, at other times as few as five or six.

During a visit to Jellies Invasion, guests can sometimes see what look like baby jellies pulsing alongside the adults, but in fact they are more like teenagers. Jelly babies are extremely small, developing from tiny polyps (resembling small sea anemones) that attach to the inside of their exhibits.

Polyps are collected from exhibit walls and viewing windows and allowed to attach to petri dishes in the lab. There, they are fed, kept clean and encouraged to strobilate, releasing free-swimming ephyrae. At just 2 millimeters, these ephyrae are easy to miss, except by those with a trained eye.

moon jelly polyps

Once the ephyrae are released, they ride the water flow into a larger container where they grow until they are big enough to be put on exhibit.

There’s No Place Like Home

While specific jelly species have different exhibit needs, they are generally cared for in the same ways. Jellies eat zooplankton, small fish and other jellies in the wild. Jellies at the Aquarium eat brine shrimp, grown by the Jellies team, two or three times per day. As the jellies grow, their food gets larger as well.

A precise balance of water flow, salinity and tem­perature is critical to a viable jelly-breed­ing program, and sophisticated water measurement technology allows aquarists to keep careful watch over the conditions.

jellies lab behind the scenes

The size and shape of the tank, in addition to the direction and speed of water flow, are important in ensuring the jellies don’t rub against the walls or become tangled. The aquarists on staff are constantly tweaking the instruments and engineering the tanks to make sure that flow is perfect for these drifters.

In fact, Janssen says that getting that water flow rate just right is one of the hallmarks of a great jelly aquarist. And the Aquarium’s Jellies team is among the best. Not only do aquarium-raised jellies appear on exhibit here in Baltimore, but many are sent to other aquariums for their exhibits…kind of like a jellies invasion!

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!


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