megabyte: (jellyfish)
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I've had this idea for several months now, and I'm finally doing it! Here is your first installment of Monday Marvels! The idea is simple - Mondays often suck for most people. And that is just sad. So! I want to write about the things I find amazing in life, share them with the world, and hopefully make people's Mondays a little bit brighter. So here we go...

Jelly Fish (I even have an icon for this!)

Jelly Fish are not fish, of course. They are often called "jellies" now, the same way panda bears are now just pandas. Jellies are absolutely astounding. They baffle and intrigue me, and will always be the first example I think of when I think of the crazy awe-inspiring things out in the world. That's why I think I'll make them the mascot of this series and always use this icon. :D

A few years ago, I wanted to work at Long Beach Aquarium, so I set out to get a volunteer position there. Honestly, I wanted to work with the sea lions or something, but the only position they had available at the time I applied was to be an Aquarist volunteer. I signed up, they approved me, and next thing I know, I got assigned to work with the jellies. I had already liked jellies before this, but this volunteer position endeared them to me all the more.

I wish my schedule had been easier to handle, but I was so busy, working three part time jobs I think, and I ended up quitting the position after only a few weeks. Still, those four or five times I got to work with the jellies were pretty wonderful.

I remember on more than one occasion quietly staring at them, and asking, "HOW do you exist?"

They have no brain. No skeleton, nor exoskeleton for that matter. No eyes or nose. No lungs or gills. That means they have no skeletal, respiratory, circulatory OR central nervous system!!!! (Seriously, people, this makes me want to shout WHAT THE HELL HOW IS THAT POSSIBLE?? from the rooftops!!)

They do kind of have a mouth (no teeth or tongue). They have tentacles, and they reach out and grab their prey and move it up into... their mouth-ish parts, and into their stomach, where they digest food! They are so nearly plant-like that when they breed them, they call it cultivating them. But they are animals. They even have boy and girl parts, and by that I mean, they release sperm or eggs, just out into the water, where they miraculously find each other, settle onto a surface and form into A NEW JELLYFISH. And their sexual parts are located.. where else? In their stomach!!! (Aaaah! These guys are CRAZY! I love it!)

As usual, there are exceptions to every rule, and just now I learned that the Box Jellyfish has a central nervous system, 24 eyes, and 4 parallel brains, making it one of the only animals to have a 360 degree view of its environment. (Thanks Wikipedia!)

And jellyfish do have nerves and ocelli, and the basic ability to sense light and know up from down (so they know which way they're swimming).

At the aquarium, I got to clean the inside of their tanks. It had to be done slowly and delicately, and several times daily. Even if there was nothing to be seen on the glass, all of the glass inside every tank had to be meticulously wiped down daily, because the smallest microscopic debris is enough to scratch the skin of the jellyfish. They are SO delicate!

One day, I got to transfer baby moon jellies to their larger tank. When I heard baby moon jellies, I imagined jellies the size of my fist. Instead, my mentor guy showed me to a tank about the size of a gallon of milk. It probably was a 1 gallon tank... And the babies were little itty bitty teenie tiny red dots. Mere specks. I used a pipette, sucked them in, and put them in the tank with the bigger babies (which probably were the size of olives).

The exceptionally bizarre part of my volunteer experience was seeing that moon jellies, which are highly easy to cultivate and also beautiful were not only used as display animals but also as food animals. So my mentor would have a few that he'd pull out and start chopping up as food for the other jellies (eek!), yet I'd be standing next to that chopping block, carefully cleaning the tank of the main moon jellies that were on display. Strangeness beyond strangeness. Though maybe not that strange, really, since the hatchery in SF Zoo was a little like that (look at the cute chicks! we're going to go feed them to the meerkats now!).

Another interesting thing my mentor had to do that I never would have thought of is untangle the jellies when their tentacles get all wrapped up together. It was fascinating to watch!

Anyway. I love jellies. They are weird, weird, simple animals that are practically nothing, but are not nothing at all. They are these beautiful, elegant, slow moving creatures, of all different sizes. I like the little ones whose tiny little tentacles all have these itty bitty hairs, and as they move through the water, the way those little hairs moves makes them look rainbow colored, shimmery, like a little light is traveling around and around their bodies. It's unreal. I also love the really long ones, and I do like the pale moon jellies, too.

Jellies really are the perfect example for what a weird and wonderful world we live in. When something seems impossible, I think, well this is a world in which jellyfish exist, so maybe there are more possibilities than we think!

These are all photos I took at Monterey Bay Aquarium a few years ago, enjoy!

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