Featured Creature Friday: The Inevitable Jellyfish Invasion

Look, this week I do not have anything cutesy to tell you about some freaky little animal that you have never met before, okay? There is something more important you need to know, and I’ve been trying to get the word out but nobody is listening. And by the time the world wakes up and pays attention, it’s going to be too late.

EVERYBODY LISTEN, OKAY? LISTEN. THE JELLYFISH ARE GOING TO KILL US ALL.

Yeah, I know what you’re thinking. You’re all, “Oooh, jellyfish, they’re so pretty even if they sting, and I liked that part in Finding Nemo!” Well, Finding Nemo was nothing but underwater propaganda. They were trying to make you think that the ocean’s got all these nice friendly creatures when really the ocean is more like Australia: most things there are trying to kill you. But mostly the jellyfish.

Oh, I’m sorry. What’s that? You’re not afraid of jellyfish? You think I’m overreacting? Let’s go over all the reasons why jellyfish are the enemy.

1. They are not eco-friendly. Most animals contribute in some way to the rest of the food chain, whether it’s their waste nourishing kelp beds or their dead bodies feeding other creatures or whatever else. But jellyfish think they’re too good to contribute to the community. According to this article, jellyfish basically eat everything and turn it into a “gelatinous biomass.”

During a jellyfish bloom, food webs may thus be plucked and rearranged, configured to feed jellies that in turn feed almost nothing. Whether this represents the future of Earth’s oceans depends on whom you ask, but it’s an interesting phenomenon in itself.

“Jellyfish are consuming more or less everything that’s present in the food web,” said Robert Condon, a Virginia Institute of Marine Science and co-author of a jellyfish-impact study published June 7 in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. “They’re eating a lot of the food web, and turning it into gelatinous biomass. They’re essentially stealing a lot of the energy, then putting it away.”

A vivid color illustration of my worst nightmares come to life: a diver among giant Nomura jellyfish. Photo from the Yomiuri Shimbun.

When you put it that way, they pretty much sound like alien invaders from outer space, bent on consuming all of our planet’s precious resources. Or possibly just houseguests who are always high and useless and eat all your Cheetos. Jellyfish, go get a job. And when I say “go get a job” what I mean is “please exterminate yourselves for the good of all life on earth.”

2. They’re in ur ocean, sinkin ur battleship. And how, you wonder, would some jellyfish sink a ship that weighs, say, 10 tons? By being a f***ing jellyfish the SIZE OF A REFRIGERATOR. And sure, you might be thinking to yourself that the jellyfish were only getting revenge on account of the fact that this particular fishing trawler was out harvesting jellyfish, but what you might not realize is that jellyfish are not loyal. Sure, they swarm so you might think, “Aw, they’re sociable creatures and have family values!” No. Jellyfish are dicks. If they decide to sink your boat it is not out of any sort of loyalty toward their fellow jellyfish, it is only because they are being dickish. I mean, sure, they didn’t actually ram the boat all Moby Dick-style or anything, and maybe the ship only sank because the fishermen were trying to haul in a bunch of freakishly huge jellyfish and the things were too freakishly heavy and they caused the boat to capsize, but I will bet you anything that those jellyfish planned it that way.

If you’re not horrified enough just by that story, here’s some photographic evidence to help you along the jellyfish-lined road to eternal nightmares.

3. They are lulling you into a false sense of security. Like for instance, you might watch this video of a swimmer navigating unharmed among thousands of jellyfish in Palau, and think to yourself, “Holy shit, jellyfish are amazing, it’s like he’s swimming in a sea of magical fairy creatures!” If you think that, it only means that because of your gullibility, you will be the first to die when the inevitable jellyfish invasion occurs.

If the sight of this vulnerable pink human surrounded by jellyfish does not chill your blood, then you are not afraid enough. You will not survive in the coming war.

4. They are working with the algae to create a new world of slime. Aside from the obvious implications of how liveable a slime-world would be for human beings and other life, it’s also important to note that this means that the jellyfish are forming alliances with other creatures in their quest to destroy us. Their ability to negotiate trade and supply agreements as well as treaties with the algae is an obvious sign that the jellyfish are more advanced than mankind has ever given them credit for.

5. They are storming beaches all over the world, in their own gelatinous D-Day. They claimed 1600 victims in Florida. On Memorial Day. Which leads us to item 5.a: the jellyfish understand our customs and rituals and are actively mocking our cultural events.

6. They are taking over the ocean. In typical human fashion, we are unwitting accomplices in our own demise, because jellyfish have been wildly successful at living and reproducing lately because we’ve given them lots of help. Warming up the oceans was pretty nice, made them and their no-good hooligan pals the algae feel right at home, and the way we’ve overfished basically every fishery everywhere certainly cut down on competition for delicious jellyfish-food.

We must ask ourselves, how long will it be until the jellyfish decide to leave the oceans and come after us on our home turf? How long before they abandon the seas in favor of our jacuzzis and insanely comfortable sofas? Smithsonian Magazine has my back on this one, you guys.

Smithsonian Magazine, in a 2010 feature, counted the apparent predicament of jellyfish blooms as one of 40 things to know about the next 40 years, suggesting jellyfish might be on their way to dominating the biomass, or organisms in the oceans. The article pointed out that the creatures are reproducing in astonishing numbers and showing up where they had not been seen before.

7. They have been developing a secret cadre of deadly jellyfish warriors in the form of box jellyfish. They’re among the most venomous animals in the world, but they also have terrifying features like eyes that come in clusters of six on each side of their “bell,” and the ability to move through the water at a rate of about four knots, unlike other jellyfish who mostly just drift around like the lazy bastards they are. The box jellyfish are the ninjas of the growing jellyfish army.

(Edit: Comrade Angela, who is deep in enemy territory in Australia, has written to let us know of the dangers of the tiny Irukandji jellyfish. They are an extremely small stealth form of jellyfish. And being stung by them is the venomous equivalent of being bitten by 100 cobras simultaneously. Come on, ocean kingdom. Surely that is overkill.)

8. Much like zombies, even when they are dead they will not stop trying to kill you. And you can’t aim for the head because JELLYFISH DO NOT HAVE HEADS. Or brains. Or central nervous systems. We are so totally doomed, you guys.

It may be that in the end, we’ll all be killed by swarming jellyfish or ninja jellyfish or even zombie jellyfish, but right now I can only suggest that to avert disaster, every human being should come to know our greatest enemy by discovering more about the jellyfish. In that video they might look like some kind of amazing intelligent life like something out of that sweet-ass movie The Abyss, and you know something? Maybe they are. Maybe they’re exactly like that. Except that in this scenario we’re all Ed Harris (but maybe with better hair) and at the end of this movie instead of saving us the beautiful alien jellyfish will KILL EVERY LAST ONE OF US and force our pets to do their bidding.

I’m just saying. Watch yourselves. Be safe out there.

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11 thoughts on “Featured Creature Friday: The Inevitable Jellyfish Invasion

  1. thanks for the heads up ;) that is why I got the evil icequeen on my side (most of the time), I am counting on her intergalatic freezing pistol to save me in the end… jellyfish does not like cold, do they? :P

  2. Good lord. Thanks for the freakin nightmares.

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