A “Crown-ing” Achievement for “The Jellies Experience”
In a first for any aquarium worldwide, we added stunning crown jellies (Cephea cephea) to “The Jellies Experience” special exhibition on June 21.
These are unlike any jellies we’ve had previously, with beautiful, purple colors and an array of “spikes” emanating from the broad, four-inch, circular bell. The story behind the jellies is as fascinating as the species itself, and is the result of a two-year husbandry effort by Senior Aquarist Wyatt Patry.
“We’re in close contact with jellies aquarists all over the world through the internet,” says Wyatt. “We received the ‘polyps’ from Zoo Berlin, which got them from waters off Japan.” (Crown jellies are found in nearly all Indo-Pacific waters.)
Bubble Wrap Breakthrough
Though many institutions have tried, ours was the first to unlock the secret of raising crown jelly polyps to adulthood. The biggest challenge? Simulating the pelagic (open-ocean) environment to which the species is accustomed.
“You have to figure out how to keep them suspended,” says Wyatt. “They’ll stick to the sides of the display if you let them, and degrade. So we had to make a small exhibit space seem like the open ocean.”
A breakthrough came in the form of everyday bubble wrap. It turns out that crown jellies hate the stuff. So Wyatt used yards of it to line the various-size holding tanks used to grow the jellies from polyps to adulthood. The soft bubble wrap also keeps the jellies from hurting themselves when they happen to bump up against the walls.
Of course, it’s not possible to use unsightly bubble wrap in our exhibit spaces, so Wyatt painstakingly created water currents, called “gyres,” to help keep the delicate jellies in the middle of the display that you’ll see when you visit.
What’s for Lunch
The jellies are fed brine shrimp two times per day, and rotifers (zooplankton) throughout the day. Basically, they get to eat as much as they want. In addition to the ones on exhibit, there are eight, 1 ½-inch jellies behind the scenes currently, and hundreds more in various stages of development. Wyatt has no idea how large the jellies will grow on exhibit, but the husbandry team is prepared to move them to a larger display if necessary.
Will they be with us on long-term exhibit? “I’m confident we’ve got it down now,” says Wyatt. “It’s a great achievement for the Aquarium, and ’The Jellies Experience.’ We hope people get a chance to come see them!”
Have questions for our jellies aquarists? We’re organizing the first-ever live “Jelly Chat” Tuesday, June 26 at noon (PDT) on Facebook, or on Twitter at #jellychat. Aquarists Wyatt Patry and Tommy Knowles will take your questions and devote an hour just to jellies. We welcome your questions in advance (Spanish, too)!
The Monterey Bay Aquarium, perched on the edge of a world-famous coastline, is your window to the wonders of the ocean. It’s located on historic Cannery Row in Monterey and is open daily except Christmas Day. For more information about our animals and exhibits, and to view our live web cams, please visit www.montereybayaquarium.org. Hours of operation vary by season. Daily schedules are also available on our website or by calling (831) 648-4800.