NAPLES – Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve has unveiled a new marine life exhibit. Three sea jelly are now in residence at the Rookery Bay Environmental Learning Center for the public to enjoy.
Dave Graff, an education specialist for Rookery Bay Reserve, introduced this exhibit to the learning center in September.
"We haven't had a jelly tank before because they typically have to be custom built which can cost thousands of dollars," said Graff. He saw this new, manufactured, jelly aquarium at the National Marine Educator's Association meeting this past summer. After speaking with the representative of the company (Jellyfish Art) he saw that it was an inexpensive and well-designed jelly tank that could be an amazing addition to the existing plankton display at the center.
According to Graff, this exhibit is especially exciting, because keeping sea jellies in captivity was once a complicated task.
"Jellies cannot survive in standard fish tanks because, as plankton (drifting animals), they risk getting trapped in corners and pulled in by the tanks' filtration process," he explained.
The new exhibit will allow visitors to see the details of moon jelly up close, within a circular tank that illuminates the jellies and keeps them floating in the water column. Visitors can see the fringe of nematocysts (stinging cells) and observe the way jellies pulsate their bodies in order to drift through the water. Graff thinks that displaying moon jellies in the learning center helps visitors see plankton in a new light.
"They are voracious predators of other plankton even though they are pretty low on the food web," said Graff.
Moon jellies can be found in waters from the Caribbean all the way up to Maine, but our moon jellies were bred in captivity, which is more beneficial for the animal. Using jellies that are captive bred and raised keeps wild animals in the wild. Another benefit of captive raised animals is that they are getting the same food they've had their whole lives. Bringing an animal in from the wild there puts a lot of stress on the animal while they're adapting to a new diet in captivity.
Moon jellies can be seen seasonally in Rookery Bay, washed on the beach after storms, and now in the Environmental Learning Center as well.
More information about moon jellies
The Environmental Learning Center is open 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday, adding Saturday hours October through April. Enjoy two-story visitor center, film, art gallery, gift shop and nature trail with viewing platform. Admission is $5 for adults, $3 for kids 6 – 12, and free for kids under 6 and Friends of Rookery Bay members. 300 Tower Road, one mile south of the intersection of US41 and Collier Boulevard. 239-530-5977. rookerybay.org.