Monday, March 5, 2012

Brainless Blobs Invade Hawaii! - Or - Attack of the Ctenophores!

"Strange jellyfish-like creatures cloud Hanauma Bay"
Kathy Muneno, KOHN2 (March 3, 2012)

"A few weeks ago at Hanauma Bay, a group of swimmers ran into a group strange looking jellyfish.

"Called a ctenophore, it may not look menacing, but a swimmer said there were thousands - so many, they had to get out of the water.

" 'I was not very surprised, it's a very rare event and those people who got to see them were actually very lucky people because they're really harmless and it's a rare sight,' said Mark Martindale, a UH professor and ctenophora expert.

"That's right, although swimmers said they felt like these animals stung them, they are harmless.

" 'They do not sting, they have tentacles but instead of having stinging cells like the Medusi jellyfish that most people are familiar with, these animals use their tentacles to stick to the prey and then they bring them to their mouth, so yeah they're perfectly harmless,' Martindale said.

" 'These aren't jellyfish at all but they certainly look the part,' said UH professor Angel Yanagihara.

"But they can harm some environments, like when they depleted fish stocks in the Black Sea...."

Not to worry, apparently: the ctenophores aren't likely to eat Hawaii. The places where the voracious little predators caused problems are smallish bodies of water. The Pacific Ocean - isn't.

The hand-sized blobs of appetite showing up in Hanauma Bay may have something to do with the dropoff near the bay's mouth. Or maybe something else was going on. That's what the Lemming gathered from the article, anyway.

One more thing - a UH professor and ctenophora expert Mark Martindale says the critters are "extremely important" because "they're the most ancient example of multi-cellular animals. They've been around longer than any fish." Not that the individuals at Hanauma Bay are upwards of 488,300,000 years old. Mark Martindale probably meant that critters that looked like ctenophores have been around for something like half of a billion years.

Brainless Blobs

Ctenophores - mercifully - have another name. One that's easier to pronounce: comb jellies. Oddly, there don't seem to be brush jams, although the Lemming is familiar with door jams, and that's another topic.

Ctenophores are a sort of minimal animal, getting by with no brain: just a 'nerve net,' a sort of cobweb of nerves that runs through the critter. There's a gag or two involving elections, committees, or opinion polls, lurking in that factoid: but they eluded the Lemming. The gags, that is.

Other posts about critters:

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