Scientists reveal arcane jellyfish life cycle

2014-01-28 14:39


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Kiel - Scientists have covered the molecular changes that drive the weird lives of jellyfish, strange creatures found in all the world's oceans.

Jellyfish undergo a bizarre transformation, starting out as polyps that stick to rocks. Then they bud into segments, with each one becoming a free-swimming, adult jellyfish or medusa that travels through the sea.

Understanding that change might lead to a way to reduce population explosions of jellyfish, which annoy swimmers. Stings from some species leave painful red welts and blisters. Jellyfish stings have even been known to trigger a heart attack.

A team of scientists including Professor Thomas Bosch from the Kiel Life Science institute in northern Germany have decrypted the complex life cycle of the Aurelia aurita (moon jellyfish) which is found in the North Atlantic Ocean as well as the North and Baltic Seas.

The findings published in the US science journal Current Biology investigated the mechanisms involved when the moon jellyfish population grows in spring before dying out again in winter.

The scientists found that the transformation was triggered by changes in water temperature, which cause the jellyfish to secrete large amounts of CL 390, a protein. Once a critical concentration is reached, the metamorphosis begins in the spring.

"This molecule is only produced when the temperature is right. It has to be very cold in winter and then become warm", explained Bosch.

Scientists believe that if the production of CL 390 were to be prevented by the creation of a synthetic molecule that blocked it, it might be possible to prevent the annual explosion in the moon jellyfish population.

However, the German scientists warn that such a large-scale intrusion into the jellyfish life cycle is undesirable and highly risky. "This could have unforeseen biological consequences", said Bosch

Read more on:    germany  |  marine life

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