Aquarium of the Pacific has New Exhibits Featuring Sea Jellies


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They have no heart, brain, or lungs and have existed on our planet since before the time of the dinosaurs. The Aquarium of the Pacific invites you to delve into the mysterious world of sea jellies through the new Jellies exhibits opening on May 22, 2015. Often referred to as “jellyfish,” sea jellies are actually invertebrates, or animals without backbones. Some species of sea jellies can indicate if ocean water is clean while others indicate if it is polluted. They’re made up of 95 percent water and are delicate, but some jellies wield a potent sting. Visitors to the Aquarium can explore the amazing life of these gelatinous animals and learn about their importance to our ocean planet through new exhibits, educational programs, films, and more. Ever wondered what a jelly feels like? You can even safely touch them at the Aquarium.


New jelly exhibits will be added to each of the Aquarium’s indoor galleries, displaying new jelly species in addition to those already on display. Sea jellies are found in ocean waters all over the world, as well as freshwater. In the Tropical Pacific gallery, learn about lagoon jellies and upside-down jellies, which live in warmer, shallow waters. They both host symbiotic algae in their tissues that enables them to survive on nutrition provided via photosynthesis.


In the Northern Pacific gallery, home to animals from colder waters, visitors can see the Aquarium’s permanent jelly collection as well as a new exhibit explaining the complex lifecycle of sea jellies. Shimmering comb jellies, umbrella jellies, and sea nettles as well as the lion’s mane jelly, whose tentacles can get as long as a blue whale, are among the jellies featured in this gallery. The Southern California/Baja gallery will feature sea jellies found in local waters, including purple-striped jellies and egg yolk jellies.


Visitors to the Wonders of the Deep gallery near the Aquarium’s entrance will have the opportunity to touch moon jellies. This gallery will also feature bioluminescent jellies as well as various specimens on loan from researchers in the field, such as tiny thimble jellies. Learn about the stinging cells all jellies have, only some of which can hurt humans; find out about jelly blooms and their relationship to human activity; and see how jellies are raised at the Aquarium. It all starts this summer.

My son and I had the opportunity to visit last week and we loved the jellies! They are actually one of my favorite so I was quite excited to find them all over the Aquarium! My favorite were the Sun Worshippers!  




Jellies are eaten by many kinds of fish and sea turtles, so they are important for a healthy and balanced ecosystem. Leatherback turtles feed almost exclusively on jellies.


Human Uses of Jellies

Food: People from many countries, including Indonesia, China, Japan, Korea, and other Asian countries, harvest sea jellies for food. Jelly fisheries in China date back 1,700 years, and worldwide more than 900 million pounds of jellies are caught each year, according to the Smithsonian Institution. Jellies are often dried for storage and eaten either dried or rehydrated. Fishermen are beginning to harvest sea jellies off the coast of the United States for Asian markets. The jelly fisheries in the U.S. provide an alternative seafood option for Americans who primarily consume shrimp, salmon, and tuna.


Medicine: The ocean is increasingly seen as a potential source of medicines. While marine life found on coral reefs are the most researched, scientists are also studying biochemicals derived from sea jellies that show some promise in treating various human diseases.


Science: In 2008 scientists Osamu Shimomura, Martin Chalfie, and Roger Y. Tsien were awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for their work with green fluorescent proteins found in crystal jellies. When exposed to a certain kind of light, the proteins glow bright green, allowing scientists to use them as markers in cell and molecular biology research.


Conservation: Humans have found many uses for sea jellies, but human activity is changing ocean ecosystems, affecting jelly reproduction and habitats and potentially reducing their populations in the wild. Jellies are important for a healthy and balanced ecosystem.


Jelly Populations

An abundance of jellies is seen by some scientists as a signal that an ocean ecosystem is out of balance. As humans have removed fish from the food web by overfishing certain species, there is less competition for the zooplankton jellies feed on, so their numbers may have grown. Another human activity that may lead to higher numbers of jellies is fertilizers entering the ocean through runoff. Fertilizers cause algae to bloom, which quickly depletes oxygen from the water, creating what are known as dead zones. Some jellies thrive in low-oxygen environments. A changing climate and warming ocean are also likely to affect sea jellies. Those that thrive in warmer waters may increase in number, while those that live in cold-water habitats may diminish. Large jelly blooms can pose problems for ocean swimmers because of the danger of being stung by some species. They can also clog cooling water pumps at coastal power plants, causing regional power outages.


Ocean Pollution: Pollution and trash in the ocean pose major threats to ocean life. For example, sea turtles and other animals sometimes mistake plastic bags for jellies. If these animals eat the plastic bags they find in the ocean, it can be extremely harmful to them, even deadly.


Information Gap: Assessing human impacts on jelly populations is difficult because of a lack of available data. Some species seem to have disappeared for several years at a time, but returned later. Some species of jellies were more abundant in San Francisco Bay at a time when waters there were more polluted. Conversely, while the waters around the San Juan Islands in the Pacific Northwest appear to be relatively pristine, jellies populations there have decreased over recent decades. The causes for these changes have yet to be confirmed. In order to best understand sea jellies, the changes to their populations, and our impacts, more research needs to be done.

Credit: The Aquarium of the Pacific. All photos except the photo of the Sun Worshippers: Aquarium of the Pacific. Sun Worhippers photo: SoCal City Kids.

The Aquarium of the Pacific, a nonprofit institution, celebrates our planet’s largest and most diverse body of water, the Pacific Ocean, and is dedicated to conserving nature and its resources by building relationships among people. Home to over 11,000 animals, the Aquarium features hands-on discovery labs, the Molina Animal Care Center, Lorikeet Forest aviary, interactive Shark Lagoon, Ocean Science Center, Wonders of the Deep gallery, and June Keyes Penguin Habitat.  Beyond its exhibits, the Aquarium offers educational programs for people of all ages, from hands-on activities to lectures by leading scientists. It is a community gathering place where diverse cultures and the arts are celebrated and where important topics facing our planet and our ocean are explored by scientists, policymakers, and stakeholders in the search for sustainable solutions. The Aquarium is open daily, 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. (except Dec. 25 and during the Grand Prix April 17-19, 2015), and is located on Southern California’s coast at 100 Aquarium Way, Long Beach, CA 90802. For more information, call 562-590-3100 or visit

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