Dead Jellyfish - Jacksonville Florida
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Dead Jellyfish - Jacksonville, Florida

January 19, 2011
Thousands of jellyfish washed ashore along the beaches of Jacksonville, Fla., in February 2007. Although this is a seasonal occurrence, the number of jellyfish was much higher than previous years, with rotting jellyfish littering the beaches for miles and miles. More about this ImageWhen distributed in reasonable numbers, native jellyfish play important ecological roles. But when jellyfish populations run wild, they may jam hundreds and perhaps even thousands of square miles with their pulsating, gelatinous bodies. In recent years, massive blooms of stinging jellyfish and jellyfish-like creatures have overrun some of the world's most important fisheries and tourist destinations--even transforming large swaths of them into veritable jellytoriums. The result: injuries (sometimes serious) to water enthusiasts and even occasional deaths. Jellyfish swarms have also damaged fisheries, fish farms, seabed mining operations, desalination plants and large ships. And proving that jellyfish can be political animals, knots of jellyfish have done the work of anti-nuclear activists: they have disabled nuclear power plants by clogging intake pipes. In short, since the 1980s, worldwide jellyfish blooms have caused hundreds of millions--or perhaps even billions--of dollars in losses. Worldwide reports of massive jellyfish blooms are triggering speculation that jellyfish swarms are increasing because of human activities. But are they? This report--which is guaranteed to make your skin crawl--explains the basics of jellyfish biology and what scientists have thus far discovered about the causes and future of jellyfish blooms. To learn more about the basics of jellyfish biology, what scientists have learned thus far about the worldwide increase in jellyfish populations, and the causes of jellyfish swarms and how they affect both human and marine life, see the NSF Special Report, "Jellyfish Gone Wild!" (Date of Image: Feb. 15, 2007)

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