Jellyfish: How to Prune the Blooms
Reports of jellyfish population booms have led the United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organisation to call for creative ways to reduce their numbers.Corbis Images
According to the United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), we have a problem: There are too many jellyfish in the oceans. As with most modern environmental issues these days, humans are the purported cause of the problem, with overfishing, global warming and pollution credited as the triggers behind jellyfish bloom boom.
Though this trend could simply be part of a 20-year boom-and-bust jellyfish cycle, the FAO is still urging that humans to find uses for jellyfish to help bring down their numbers.
Find out the different ways humans can pitch in to curb growing populations of the animal that has frequently been referred to as the "cockroach of the sea."
Jellyfish are dried, salted and sold in jars, along with other marine animals like sea cucumbers.Corbis Images
If there's one tried and true method of bringing down the numbers of a marine animal, it's putting that animal on the menu.
Although not everyone is familiar with jellyfish as a food, there are recipes for appetizers, like jellyfish salad and jellyfish soup, and even meals, like jellyfish burgers. (And no, jellyfish doesn't seem to go well with peanut butter.) In fact, pickled or dried jellyfish makes up a multi-million dollar part of the seafood business in Asia.
Eating jellyfish won't work for all species. Around 12 of the 85 or so known species of jellyfish are edible.
If we can have chocolate made with bugs, there's no reason to frown at caramel made of jellyfish.Corbis Images
If we're not eating them directly, jellyfish could also be used in food additives. Not the entire animal, mind you, but rather a glycoprotein derived from jellyfish. And you might be surprised what kind of foods it's already being used in: candy.
An invasive swarm of Nomura's jellyfish, which can grow up to six feet long and weigh hundreds of pounds, in the Sea of Japan turned into a sugar rush for students at Obama Fisheries High School in Japan. They developed a caramel with the jellyfish as one of its key ingredients, as Fast Company reported in 2009. They also came up with a recipe for jellyfish-derived cookies.
Mucins extracted from jellyfish could be used for cosmetics and drug production.Corbis Images
Jellyfish themselves can be beautiful creatures, so it should come as no surprise that a jellyfish population boom could be good news for the cosmetics industry.
In Japan, researchers from marine laboratories have worked with cosmetics companies to determine the suitability of jellyfish collagen for mass-market cosmetics. Sugary proteins produced by jellyfish called mucins allow beauty products to retain their moisture, and is primarily taken from cow salivary glands or pig stomachs, as noted by the Daily Telegraph in 2007.
Box jellyfish are small, difficult to spot in the water, and deadly.Corbis Images
Given that jellyfish and their sting is typically only associated with pain -- and in some instances a serious medical emergency, you might think that they owe us one in terms of providing some kind of human health benefit.
Although the venom of box jellyfish is among the deadliest on Earth and a sting can frequently be fatal, researchers are investigating the possibility of using the venom to create non-addictive painkiller, similar to what had previously been found in cone snail.
That's not the only part of a jellyfish that could be used for treatment. In 2005, a patent application was filed for the use of jellyfish collagen to treat rheumatoid arthritis.
Green fluorescent protein (GFP) were first isolated from the common jellyfish Aequorea victoria.Nobel Foundation/Press Release
Biolumniscent jellyfish can do more than warn off potential predators with their glow; their cells can also be adapted to reveal cancer in its early stages deep within the human body, as researchers at the Yorkshire Cancer Research Laboratory at The University of York reported in 2010.
For their research, the scientists used viruses containing the protein that causes a species of bioluminescent jellyfish to glow. As the viruses targeted cancer cells and grew, they would make more glowing proteins to indicate where the tumor was located in the body.
The method created by these researchers to detect cancerous cells could revolutionize medical diagnoses. The technique builds on previous work by Nobel-Prize winning scientist Roger Y Tsien, whose prize-winning research involved taking glowing cells from the crystal jelly and isolating the protein, green fluorescent protein (GFP), that causes it to glow.
Light-producing cells in jellyfish could also power fuel cells in nano devices.Corbis Images
Given that they're a potential source of food, medicine and cosmetics, it might seem like a stretch to suggest that jellyfish could be a source of energy as well.
In fact, researchers in Sweden have found a way to extract a protein to power nano devices in tiny fuel cells by liquidizing jellyfish, according to a 2010 report. The fuel cells could power future nano devices for medical diagnosis, patient treatment or communications.