Jellies Would Really Sting
Aquarium's jellyfish gallery
leaves in January 2000
Tenn. (April 29, 1999) - The colorful, shimmering stars of
Jellies: Phantoms of the Deep continue to mesmerize
visitors at the Tennessee Aquarium, but these vagabonds of
the ocean will drift away in early January.
The jellies gallery is the first in a series of changing shows
designed to make each visit to the Aquarium new and exciting.
It will be replaced by another exciting exhibit in the year
of the Deep gives visitors the rare opportunity to see
jellyfish as they really are - delicate and graceful creatures
who are nettlesome to swimmers only because they're doing
what jellyfish do.
"The jellies exhibits on the East and West Coasts have
drawn millions of visitors from all over the country,"
said Charlie Arant, Aquarium president. "We want our
visitors to have the opportunity to experience the magical
and mystical world of the jellies, as well as all the other
amazing wonders of the aquatic world."
And amazing it is. You might be a small child who observes
the swimming behavior of baby moon jellies in a hand-held
jelly-wand. Or an adult who steps up to one of the interactive
stations to find out more about the lion's mane jelly that
captured his interest with its long tentacles. Visitors of
all ages will find the jellies gallery a technical and aesthetic
marvel complete with ethereal music, dim lighting and hundreds
of pulsating, glowing, shimmering, phantom-like jellies.
The sea nettles, moon jellies, lion's mane and elegant jellies
range in size from contact lenses to dinner plates, and in
color from iridescent white to shades of pink and brown. Their
bodies, or "bells," trail long, thread-like tentacles
and frilly ruffles in an eerie ballet.
Jellyfish-in spite of their name-are not fish, but invertebrate-relatives
of sea anemones and corals. They occupy nearly every watery
realm from shallow swamps to icy ocean trenches, and prosper
even with no brain, no heart and no spine.
Made up of 2 percent protein, 2 percent mineral salts and
96 percent water, jellies have three main parts: the round
umbrella-like bodies or bells which propel the animals with
a pumping or pulsating motion; tentacles that sting and immobilize
prey; and oral arms or flaps that are used to eat their prey.
With this basic equipment, jellies manage to defend themselves
from danger, make daily and seasonal journeys, stay together
and occupy all the oceans of the world. Simple in design,
fragile in build, jellies have few of the complex features
many animals use to survive. Yet for 650 million years, they've
lived and prospered on this watery planet.
Chris Coco, curator of fishes, said that even though jellyfish
have prospered all this time, they are challenging to maintain
away from their natural environment. Extensive work by Aquarium
husbandry staff has made it possible to rear many of the jellies
in an artificial setting, and to create exhibits that can
accommodate these fragile animals.
"Setting up a display of jellyfish is a real challenge
for several reasons," said Coco. "Tanks must have
specially designed water circulation to prevent the fragile
animals from entering the life support system and to provide
for the suspension of food in the water column. The food must
be suspended because jellyfish feed on various kinds of plankton,
tiny animal organisms in the water, like baby brine shrimp."
He added that hundreds of moon and lion's mane jellies have
reproduced asexually, doing so without eggs and sperm. Jellyfish
young are called larvae, and they begin life by attaching
to a solid surface then grow to resemble a tiny flower-a polyp.
In hidden caverns and under rocky ledges, polyps perform their
own kind of reproduction-not with eggs and sperm, but by cloning
themselves. First they produce identical new polyps. Then
they begin to form free-swimming jellies, a process as strange
as if a caterpillar could divide itself into dozens of butterflies.
At the Aquarium, aquarists can "trigger" the jellies
to reproduce by changing the temperature of the water from
cold to warm or by introducing a chemical trigger. Small amounts
of iodine solution often stimulate jelly polyps to release
many new larvae. A jelly's lifespan ranges from weeks to years,
depending on the species. Most jellies at the Tennessee Aquarium
are bred here, while other species are acquired from other
The jellies gallery consists of tanks that are cylinders and
portholes; large and small jellies; warm and cold-water jellies;
stinging and mild-mannered jellies; polyps (tiny stalks of
jellyfish buds), ephyrae (babies) and medusae (adults) in
a total of 3,000 gallons of water. There is an interactive
area with four touch-screens, and a docent station, where
volunteers and educators highlight jellies with various educational
tools, including hand-held jelly-wands. Video portholes feature
footage of sea turtles eating jellies, jellies in the wild,
and other amazing jelly behavior.
Jellies: Phantoms of the Deep is sponsored in part
by Brach & Brock Confections, Inc.
Color slides available. To request slides, please call Katrina
Craven at 423-785-3011.