Jellyfish Changing the Ocean's Temperature...by Stirring It??
Image via Zunami via Flickr CC
Talk about a "butterfly flaps its wings" scenario. Scientists Kakani Katija and John Dabiri of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena have worked out just how jellyfish swim, and propose that the way jellyfish and other swimmers move through the water could have as big an impact on mixing up the oceans' waters as tides and wind, which means they're an important part of determining the temperatures of the seas. Discovery News reported yesterday that a team of scientists have tracked how jellyfish stir water via the way it swims, and have concluded that this could be part of regulating ocean temperatures.
By adding dye to the water, the researchers uncovered a surprise: jellyfish move water in two ways. Their bell-shaped heads push small swirling smoke rings out behind them, as expected, but they also drag a cone of water with them wherever they go. When moving vertically, they even manage to tow denser water toward the surface.
Typically, winds and tides are thought to do the lion's share of mixing. But if Katija and Dabiri's measurements apply to the open ocean, the collective motions of jellyfish, plankton, and other swimmers may be just as important.
With the massively increasing numbers of jellyfish in the seas that, perhaps, do something to make up for the massively decreasing number of fish, it makes logical sense that this could have some sort of impact on sea temperatures. Though we're curious to know just what the measurements are.
Follow Jaymi on Twitter: @JaymiHeimbuchMore on Jellyfish and Climate ChangeJellyfish Take Carbon To The Ocean FloorGiant Jellyfish Invade Japan's WatersBarbarians at the Gates: Jellyfish Are Taking Over the Oceans