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ScienceShot: How Jellyfish Poop Fouls Up the Food Chain

6 June 2011 3:00 pm
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April showers bring May flowers, but April pollution brings May jellyfish "blooms." The sudden, seasonal appearance of thousands of the creatures occurs in waters warmed by climate change and in areas where overfishing has removed the food competition for invasive jellies. To study how these blooms affect ocean food chains, researchers examined two species of jellyfish that bloom in the Chesapeake Bay every summer. When these jellyfish dine on zooplankton and other carbon-fixing organisms, they convert the food into a gelatinous, carbon-rich excretion. A few, normally rare species of bacteria quickly eat this waste and convert its carbon into CO2, the researchers report online in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences today. This removes the carbon from the waters, preventing fish and other organisms from using it as a food source, ultimately starving out some sea life.

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