Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Too Much Jelly

Jellyfish could be one of the oldest multi cellular predators. We have found jellyfish fossils dating back 500 million years. The trick to their impressive resilience is probably due the simplicity of the organism. Basically all a jellyfish is, is a floating mouth gobbling up whatever it can get its tentacles on. Most jellyfish do not have a brain or bones, have a very simply nervous system, and are made up of 95% water. This animal definitely won't be the winner of any junior spelling-b. However, in its line of work it won't need that type of skill. It spends most of its time eating smaller fish or fish eggs and the occasional plankton. Although just because this animal is one of the simplest predators on Earth doesn't mean that it doesn't have some very valuable properties to medicine.

One of the most important contributions that jellyfish have given us is the ability to glow in the dark. Back in 2008 three researchers were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in chemistry for their work on isolating the genes that caused jellyfish to have bioluminescen. They had worked with these proteins for a long time until they were able to identify which specific protein cause the jellyfish to have a green glow. This new found discovery, called green fluorescent protein, was used in making other animal cells glow. The discovery of the GFP was so important because it helps scientist watch how new nerve pathways are produced or how cancerous cells spread through out the body. Before GFP scientist could actually visualize what happens during cellular growth. When the cells are injected with GFP they glow and are easily visible. Those are just of a few major uses for the GFP gene but in short it is one of the most important discoveries for modern bio science. There is recent study going on right now where scientist are injecting marmoset monkey embryos with with the GFP gene using a virus. After this was done with 80 embryos were implanted into surrogate mothers which gave birth to 5 healthy glowing monkeys. These monkeys all express the GFP gene throughout their nervous system. This will help greatly in documenting how complex disease such as Parkinson’s effect the nervous system. GFP was definitely the most important discovery they gave us but not the only one. Right now some of the species' toxins are being tested for potential benefits. Since the jellyfish are very common and easy to catch scientist have started doing testes on jellyfish collagen as a good replacement for bovine or human collagen. This is becoming an increasingly promising candidate because of the large amounts of easily accessible jellyfish collagen. Jellyfish collagen also has a very good adhesion factors and binds very well with human cells. There is one jellyfish called Chrysaora quinquecirrha that is having its toxins tested and they have discovered that they have amazing antioxidant properties in them.

Jellyfish have given us an incredible discovery that has helped in so many ways. However, they aren't all smiles and sunshine. Recently there have been massive blooms in jellyfish populations all around the world and their numbers are growing out of control. This might sound like a good thing but it is a major problem in more ways than one. With such an increase in jellyfish numbers they are starting to cause damage to ecosystems around the world. There is a strong correlation with the rise in jellyfish populations and the rise in temperature of the oceans. These temperature rises have been caused by the increase in the atmospheric CO2 There are plenty of charts and graphs that show when plotted the direct impact that CO2 has on the global temperature. Now that the oceans are just a little bit warmer the jellyfish have been able to reproduce much fast. This is a common cause in the animal kingdom due to the nature of enzymes and cell reaction rates. Every cell and enzyme has a golden temperature zone in which it reacts a peak efficiency. Since the waters have warmed this has increased the rate at which jellyfish have been able to reproduce.

You might be thinking that this a beacon of light in world where everyone says that global warming is destroying diversity and ecosystems. However, this jellyfish bloom is definitely not a benefit to the oceanic diversity or the survival of many ocean species. Since there has been such a massive increase of jellyfish in they naturally have been eating more food. This has become a major problem in areas like the Caspian Sea and the Black Sea. The jellyfish are over eating and cause a dangerous drop in fish levels in many seas in the Mediterranean. This isn't only affecting the fish it also is effecting the other marine mammals that feed off the fish that live in those areas. Jellyfish blooms are having major affects on diversity that are trickling down the food chain. We have to take the bloom in jellyfish very seriously because we don't fully understand how this will affect the all of the ocean habitats. It could end up destroying coral reefs buy eating all of the natural fish that inhabit the corals. This would undoubtedly have major impacts on the reefs because of the complexity and fragility. Also they are out competing other fish in the ocean for food and could cause them to go extinct which could harm the shark populations. Sharks and reefs are too important to lose because they hold some major benefits contributing to modern medicine and we can't afford to lose these organisms. They aren't only disrupting local ecosystems they also have caused massive set backs to fishing industries. The large amount of jellyfish have been getting caught in nets with fish and they end up either ripping the nets from their weight or crushing the fish. This has caused loses in the fishing industry especially in areas like the Black Sea where the Box Jellyfish is an invasive species that was accidentally introduce to the sea. They have also cause major loses in the tourism market in Japan due to the blooms taking over the shore line. This is a problem for everyone not just biologist and it needs to be address very quickly. If the jellyfish keep reproducing at this rate they will eventually eat all of their food source and then start starving to death. We must find a solution to this problem fast or we might not be able to reverse the effects that the jellyfish have had on other marine life and themselves.


Web Sites and Articles Used

"The Nobel Prize in Chemistry 2008". 30 May 2012

"Sea Science 2010". South Carolina Department of Natural Resources.

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