Climate change is bad news for many ocean-dwelling creatures, from corals to sea turtles. But for jellyfish, warmer temperatures and more acidic waters don’t seem like such a big deal. In fact, these creatures have survived several massive periods of extinction in the past.
So, what’s the secret to their survival in seemingly all conditions? The latest episode KQED’s video series Deep Look explores this question.The fact that jellyfish are highly adaptable to changing oceans isn’t in question, but the idea that jellyfish will take over the ocean is much more speculative. Although it does seem like jellyfish blooms are more common, this perception may be caused in part by more media attention, and more problems associated with blooms—like the highly publicized shut-downs of nuclear reactors caused by swarms of jellying getting sucked into cooling water intake pipes. Some researchers say that blooms are a natural part of jelly life, and that we may not have enough data to say for certain if blooms are indeed on the rise.
In fact, although jellyfish are beautiful and fascinating, they’ve actually received relatively little research attention compared to other species of animals. For example, KQED reports that it was only recently that scientists learned how the Flower Hat jellyfish reproduces or at what water depth it prefers to live and hunt.
Another recent jellyfish revelation is that jellies don’t always just drift with the current, but that some species can in fact swim against it. Furthermore, these barrel jellyfish can detect the direction of ocean currents, despite their lack of eyes.
So, while we know many of the reasons that make jellyfish such good survivors, there’s still much to be learned about them.