To examine the effect, scientists studied the moon jellyfish. The research team were particularly interested in the coordinated appearance of the adult form of the animal (Aurelia aurita
The moon jellyfish
is translucent, usually about 10–16 inches in diameter, and can be recognized by its four horseshoe-shaped gonads, easily seen through the top of the bell. These jellyfish naturally die after living and reproducing for several months. It is probably rare for these moon jellies to live more than about six months in the wild.
The research showed
that the sudden and fast emergence is a result of a temperature-sensitive protein that acts as a "timer." The timer, set off by colder water temperatures, triggers the beginning of the jellyfish metamorphosis.
The objective of the research is that by understanding the molecular triggers of moon jellyfish blooms may lead to better ways to control them. For example, it might be possible to induce metamorphosis at the wrong period of time: the beginning of winter instead of spring. This means that young jellyfish with nothing to eat will die, and there would be no jellyfish bloom the following summer. This would reduce the risk of swimmers being stung.
The findings have been reported in
the journal Current Biology
. The paper is titled “Regulation of Polyp-to-Jellyfish Transition in Aurelia aurita