It’s clear, it’s blobby, and it floats in the ocean. This photo of a moon jelly in Monterey Bay makes it easy to understand sea turtles’ confusion in mistaking plastic bags for their favorite snacks. It’s a hard call when jellies can look so much like (no offense) trash. Unfortunately for the turtles, the mistake can be fatal if too much of that non-digestible plastic accumulates in their stomachs. Maybe they’d be better off sticking to jellies that resemble breakfast foods.
Posts Tagged ‘jellies’
It’s the catch from a midwater trawl. The fishes you see are Myctophids, or different kinds of lanternfishes that live in the deepsea. They have the amazing ability to produce light, or bioluminesce. Also in this picture are many types of plankton, that include the red, shrimp-like invertebrates you see. Can you find the jelly?
This incredible picture of an Egg Yolk, or Fried Egg Jelly was captured by MLML grad student Scott Gabara while diving for PISCO – the Partnership for Interdisciplinary Studies of Coastal Oceans. Scott was conducting subtidal fish transects in Bluefish Cove, California when he came upon the jelly. The scientific name of this jelly is Phacellophora camtschatica.
by Deasy Lontoh, Vertebrate Ecology Lab
It usually takes me 17 to 20 hours to fly from San Francisco to Jakarta, Indonesia, which covers about 9,000 miles of distance. Most of my family members live in Indonesia and I come to visit them every few years. Long hours in a plane seat and missing a day because of a 15-hour time difference are not my favorite things. But my journey is comparatively fast and plush. In 2007, I learned that a leatherback completed a similar trans-Pacific journey in 647 days covering 12,477 miles! On flippers! Scientists put on a satellite transmitter to track this turtle when it was nesting in Papua, Indonesia, which is about 2000 miles northeast of Jakarta. It traveled all the way from Indonesia to Oregon to feed on abundant jellies.
We know now that the leatherback turtles that feed all along the west coast of North America, including Monterey bay, CA in late summer and early fall, come all the way from the nesting population in Papua. Their satellite tracks show that these leatherbacks spend one season to forage on our west coast, spend the winter in Hawaii (probably because the water here is too cold), then come back to our west coast and eat more jellies. The body of a jelly consists of mostly water, although their gonads are a richer source of nutrients. Can you imagine how many jellies they need to eat? They have to eat enough jellies to fuel their return migration to the nesting beach in Indonesia and to produce eggs. Scientists predict they can their weight in jellies per day to get that much energy – about 800 pounds!
To learn more about the leatherback visitors to Monterey Bay, check out Scott Benson’s great blog through the TOPP project.
by Danielle Frechette, Vertebrate Ecology Lab
Hi, my name is Danielle. I am a graduate student in the Vertebrate Ecology lab, and I need your help with a problem we are having in our ocean right here off the coast of California. I noticed this problem when I was working on a whale watch boat in Monterey Bay.
The winter months (December through April) is gray whale season here in California. Gray whales spend the summer in Alaska, where they feed in cold, nutrient rich waters. At the end of the summer they head down to Mexico, to give birth to their calves and mate in the warm, shallow waters of Baja California. Here in California we are lucky, because they travel right along our coast on their way to and from Mexico. On February 15th and 16th I was out on the whale watch boat, looking for gray whales. We found whales, but we also found balloons. LOTS of balloons.
Each time we saw a balloon, we stopped the boat, and our deckhand used a gaff hook (a long pole with a hook on the end that is normally used for grabbing the lines we use to tie the boat to the dock) to grab the balloon out of the water. During those two days alone, we picked up 14 balloons! Each balloon was either pink, or a heart shaped Mylar balloon, which means they were all probably released on Valentine’s day, either accidentally or on purpose. We only traveled across a small part of Monterey Bay, and if we had traveled across more of the bay, I do not know how many more we would have found!
Fourteen balloons is a lot to find in only two days. It is not unusual, however, to see one or two balloons on an average day of whale watching in Monterey Bay.
One of the problems with balloons is that they can look a lot like jellies. Animals like endangered sea turtles eat jellies, and they can accidentally eat balloons, thinking they are jellies. This seems surprising, that a balloon could be mistaken for food. More than once though, I have looked over the side of my whale watch boat to see a large jelly floating near the surface, but as we got closer, I
realized that it was not a jelly at all, but a big Mylar balloon. If I, with my human brain, can mistake a balloon for a jelly, it is easy to understand how a hungry turtle can make the same mistake!
I don’t only see balloons out in the ocean. Almost every time I go for a walk on the beach, I see balloons all tangles around kelp, driftwood, and even wildlife, like the northern fulmar in this photograph.
I need you to help me figure out how the balloons get out into the ocean. Also, I need you to help me figure out how the balloons affect wildlife like sea turtles, birds, and marine mammals. I would also like you to help me figure out what we can do to help decrease the number of balloons that make it out into the ocean.
You can use these websites to answer the following questions, and help me keep our oceans free of balloons!
1. How do balloons get into the ocean?
2. Give three examples of how marine animals are affected by balloons.
3. What are the laws in California regarding balloons?
4. What can you do to help prevent balloon from harming marine wildlife?