It was December 10, 1999 at night the Philippine island of Luzon were going to their home town Manila, and some 40 million people, shortly lost power, flashing fears that a long-rumored military revolution was underway. Malls full of Christmas shoppers plunged into darkness. Holiday parties ground to a halt. President Joseph Estrada, meeting with senators at the time, endured a tense ten minutes before a generator restored the lights, while the public remained in the dark until the cause of the crisis was announced, and dealt with, the next day. Disgruntled generals had not engineered the blackout. It was wrought by jellyfish. Some 50 dump trucks’ worth had been sucked into the cooling pipes of a coal-fired power plant, causing a cascading power failure. “Here we are at the dawn of a new millennium, in the age of cyberspace,” fumed an editorial in the Philippine Star, “and we are at the mercy of jellyfish.”
Years later, the quandary seems only to have degenerated. Everywhere round the world; jellyfishes are acting badly—replicating in predictable numbers and congregating where they’ve supposedly never been seen before. Jellyfish have halted seafloor diamond mining off the coast of Namibia by gumming up sediment-removal systems. They wrap so much food in the Caspian Sea they’re contributing to the profitable loss of beluga sturgeon—the source of fine caviar. In 2007, mauve stinger jellyfish stung and asphyxiated more than 100,000 farmed salmon off the coast of Ireland as aqua culturists on a boat watched in horror. The jelly group in fact was 35 feet deep and covered ten square miles.
“Jellyfish” is a decidedly unscientific term—the creatures are not fish and are more rubbery than jamlike—but scientists use it all the same (though one I spoke with prefers his own coinage, “gelata”). The word “jellyfish” lumps together two groups of creatures that look similar but are unrelated. The largest group includes the bell-shaped beings that most people envision when they think of jellyfish: the so-called “true jellies” and their kin. All told, there are some 1,500 jellyfish species: blue blubbers, bushy bottoms, fire jellies, jumbles. Hair jellies, a.k.a. snottiest. Purple people eaters.
10 Facts about Jellyfish:
1. Jellyfish existed long before us or even the dinosaurs. They have been in the oceans for around 650 million years.
2. The Phialella zappai goldfish is named after US composer/guitarist Frank Zappa.
3. The initial noted use of the word “jellyfish” in English was in 1707.
4. The largest jellyfish ever found was a lion’s mane jellyfish with a diameter of 7ft 6in and 120ft long tentacles.
5. A crowd of jellyfish is called a swarm.
6. If one jellyfish is cut in two pieces, the pieces can regenerate and generate into two new jellyfish
7. Jellyfish and cucumbers are both 95 per cent water.
8. They do not have brains but as an alternative it has nerve nets which detect environmental changes in and coordinate the animal’s responses.
9. In various languages around the word it is medusa after the mythical Gorgon Medusa, whose snakes for hair
recommended jellyfish tentacles.
10. Colonies of jellyfish are either all male or all female. Both sexes release both sperms and eggs.