Jellyfish: The Next King of the Sea- page 5 | 40th Anniversary | Smithsonian
Jellyfish such as these Northeast Pacific sea nettles in Monterey Bay Aquarium, are brainless, bloodless and mostly aimless. (John Lee / Aurora Select)

Jellyfish: The Next King of the Sea

As the world's oceans are degraded, will they be dominated by jellyfish?

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When the submarine surfaces, Widmer quickly packs his tiny captives into chilled Tupperware containers. The strawberry jelly begins to languish almost immediately, as the sunlight disintegrates the red porphyrin pigment in its bell; soon it will be floating upside down. A second unknown specimen with pinwheel-shaped gonads looks perky enough, but we have caught only one, so Widmer will not be able to breed it for public display. He hopes to retrieve more on the next trip.

He has, however, managed to corral half a dozen Earleria corachloeae, a species he recently discovered. He named it after his two young landlocked nieces in Wichita, Kansas—Cora and Chloe. Widmer produces a YouTube series for them called “Tidepooling With Uncle Chad,” which introduces ocean wonders—sea turtle nests, bull kelp trumpets, snail racetracks—he wants them to know.

Two days later, the E. corachloeae produce a smattering of eggs like grains of fine beach sand. He will dote on his captives until they die or go on display. They are officially “golden children.”

Abigail Tucker is a staff writer. John Lee’s photographs have run in Smithsonian articles about tomatoes and John Muir.

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About Abigail Tucker

A frequent contributor to Smithsonian, Abigail Tucker is writing a book about the house cat.

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