Biodiversity: Jellyfish

Jellyfish - Alain Norro

Whether jellyfish occurrence is increasing worldwide is still under debate. In the Belgian continental shelf, the occurrence of jellyfish swarms may be problematic for at least two reasons: tourism and marine ecology. In the summer 2013, many people have suffered from jellyfish’s stinger while at the Belgian seaside. A less visible but important nuisance is the impact of jellyfish swarms on the fish larvae and the trophic chain in the sea.

Jellyfish and fish are in competition for planktonic food. In addition, jellyfish feed on fish larvae, and some fish species are able to feed on jellyfish. There are also symbiotic interactions between jellyfish and fish.

During their life cycle, jellyfish organisms exhibit a benthic-pelagic cycle with a medusa phase (pelagic) and a polyp phase (benthic). In order to better understand the jellyfish life cycle, to formulate and test hypothesis, systematic field observations are needed. Currently we are aware of the jellyfish presence when they strand on the beach, but we know nothing about the swarms breaking out at sea. A network of observation is under construction.

We are developing biological models to reproduce the complex biological cycle of jellyfish and also to understand the origin and the cause of jellyfish swarms (under development). Currently, a Lagrangian particle model is used to trace the potential original location of an observed jellyfish swarm.

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