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World first for jelly wrestlers
August 20, 2015|Uncategorized

World first for jelly wrestlers

World first for jelly wrestlers

Believe it or not, some people make a career out of wrestling jellies. But this bunch of jelly enthusiasts take it to a whole other level. They wrestle jellies that have arms laced with venomous harpoons. Sounds dangerous? That’s just the way they roll out at James Cook University, Cairns.

Behind the scenes there is some serious science going on and the talented team of jelly wranglers have just added another world first to their belt. They’ve unlock a key stage of the Irukandji jellyfish lifecycle and have grown the polyp form in the laboratory.

Postgraduate student Robert Courtney and Professor Jamie Seymour, both from the Australian Institute of Tropical Health and Medicine (AITHM), now have a culture of more than a million polyps, which have so far produced around 100 tiny jellyfish.

Since polyps reproduce asexually, budding off clones of themselves, JCU now has a perpetual source of early-lifecycle jellyfish, which will be used to better understand the factors that drive the timing and intensity of the Irukandji season.

“Having a culture of Carukia barnesi polyps is a huge step forward in Irukandji research because it allows us to study the rest of the lifecycle of this species, which has not been observed before,” Mr Courtney said.

Carukia barnesi is the species originally identified in 1964 by Cairns doctor Jack Barnes as causing what we now know as Irukandji Syndrome. To understand the excitement about growing Irukandji polyps in the lab, it helps to understand the complex lifecycle of jellyfish in general.

“The jellyfish, or medusa, stage is what most people are familiar with, and that’s the stage in which some species pose a threat to humans,” Associate Professor Seymour said.

During this stage jellyfish grow to maturity and reproduce sexually, producing fertilised eggs. The eggs hatch as small larvae, which swim for a few days before attaching to a hard surface such as rocks or coral.

The larvae then develop into small polyps, which remain attached to one spot and reproduce asexually, budding off clones of themselves. The polyps are small (a millimetre across) and have short tentacles, which they use to catch prey. Eventually the polyps produce medusae (jellyfish).

“Species differ in how and when the polyps produce jellyfish, but the trigger is environmental,” Associate Professor Seymour said.

“Having this culture in the lab means we can investigate what the trigger is for Carukia barnesi, and better understand the timing and intensity of Irukandji season.”

The researchers are also gaining insight into where Irukandji polyps might be found in the marine environment – a detail that is currently unknown.

“Although it’s early days, the results from a series of experiments indicate that the polyps have a high tolerance to both temperature and salinity, but they do best at around 25 degrees Celsius,” Mr Courtney said.

“What’s really interesting is that they also seem to do best at low salinity levels – conditions much closer to what we find in estuaries and river mouths, rather than on the Great Barrier Reef.”

Associate Professor Seymour said this was an exciting observation. “The adult Carukia barnesi is considered an oceanic species, occurring mostly offshore. These results indicate that in the polyp stage it might actually be a coastal animal, similar to the larger box jellyfish species such as Chironex fleckeri.”

From their culture of Carukia barnesi, the researchers have grown about 100 baby jellyfish, which initially measure just one millimetre across.

“Even at that size they’re dangerous and could cause Irukandji syndrome,” Associate Professor Seymour said. “Eventually they grow to a maximum of around 3.5 centimetres across the bell, with tentacles up to 1.2 metres long.”

Understanding how different water quality parameters affect the polyp stage will also help researchers to determine how the length and intensity of Irukandji season might change in response to projected climate change scenarios.

Check out a video on the polyps here: Irukandji Polyps

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Attack of the killer cone snail
August 13, 2015|Additional infoUncategorizedVideos

Attack of the killer cone snail

 

It’s not the fastest animal going around, but what the cone shell has is patience, persistence and…… venomous harpoons that makes any animal wish it hadn’t crossed paths with it.

 

In this little video you can see the stromb shell trying to escape. It usually moves around on a big sticky foot, but dangerous situations like this call for more urgent action, so it uses its foot to jump away.

 

It’s a case of the tortoise and the hare. The stromb is quick to get out of the way, the cone shell; slow, patient and relentless. When the stromb is exhausted the cone pounces (actually it just slimes its way) on the stromb.

 

In this video you can see the oral siphon (the pink tip and black and white striped organ) smelling out its prey. When the prey is located and locked in on the cone shells proboscis (the bright orange thingy searching) comes out of the mouth, searches for a weak spot on its prey (in this case the soft flesh of the stromb) and delivers the final blow…. A venom loaded harpoon called a radula which paralyses the stromb and it’s eaten whole.

 

You can actually see the venom in the water, it’s the cloudy substance that comes out of the snail and to the left of the camera.

 

 

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Killer Cone Snails
August 10, 2015|UncategorizedVideos

Killer Cone Snails

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All eyes on the jelly
August 9, 2015|Additional info

All eyes on the jelly

All eyes on the jelly

It’s a box with four corners and 24 eyes. Not the type you would want to pack a present in because the eyes on this box are found in the ocean, on the deadly box jellyfish.

 

Everything about box jellies are unexpected, they have gadget-like extendable arms, fish for prey, fire venomous harpoons and are mostly water yet they’re the deadliest animals on earth.

 

But here’s something else extraordinary about these animals that few people know…..they have a whole bunch of eyes, 24 in fact! In the Irukandji box jellyfish the eyes are found in clusters on the bottom of their box-like body, between its dangerous tentacles.

 

Now this is where it can get a bit tricky, so hang in there. Within each of the four clusters (one cluster for each side of the jelly) there are a total 6 eyes, made up of 3 different types of eyes. You still with us?

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Deadly Water
August 7, 2015|Additional info

Deadly Water

Deadly Water

 

We like to think that we know a lot about the natural world, but sometimes there are things that just stump us. Take the body composition of jellyfish for example. They’re pretty much all water with a little thickener added, that float around the ocean and make occasional appearances in movies stinging clownfish.

 

But despite being made up of 96% water, Irukandji and other members of the box jellyfish family are deadly to poor fish folk and at times human folk. The big box jellyfish claiming the title as the deadliest animal on the planet! It can kill a human in less than 2 minutes flat!

Which is bonkers when you think about it. How can an animal, which is basically all water, be so dangerous?

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Multi-tasking tentacles
August 5, 2015|Animal Facts

Multi-tasking tentacles

Multi-tasking tentacles

Imagine if your arms or fingers were like a swiss army knife and could do just about everything and anything like; attract prey, change length, shoot weapons, go fishing, digest food and excrete your waste.

Well, it just so happens that an animal like this does exist with all these awesome traits. The good news is that it would be highly unlikely to ever find yourself at the dinner table with it.

Meet the Irukandji, which is really tricky to say let alone spell. Pronounced (ira-can-gee) it’s a type of box jellyfish, named for their distinctive box-like body or ‘bell’ with a single long tentacle coming down from each corner.

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Jellyfishing
August 4, 2015|Videos

Jellyfishing

Meet the world’s deadliest fisher, the Irukandji Jellyfish. This tiny jellyfish has extendable arms that are loaded with venom filled harpoons. To attract prey the Irukandji extends then quickly retracts sections of it’s long arms, like it is ‘jigging‘ for fish. When contact is made with the arms, a barrage of venom filled harpoons (nematocysts) are unleashed on the unsuspecting victim.

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This spider sucks
August 1, 2015|Animal Facts

This spider sucks

This spider sucks

We built the Sydney Funnel Web Spider up in our last blog, only to now tear it down and call it sucky in this one! But sadly it’s the truth, they do suck and they have to as they don’t have any teeth for chewing their food.

When they’ve found dinner, which is usually other creepy crawlies such as beetles and cockroaches, they rear up with a whole lot of attitude and stab their fangs down and into their prey delivering a powerful venom that paralyses it. This sounds impressive and it’s awesome to watch, but without any teeth how do they eat it?

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Fangtastic
July 30, 2015|Additional info

Fangtastic

Fangtastic

They’re like the gangster of the spider world, big, brutish, hairy and downright scary. The kind of spider you wouldn’t want to bump into in a dark alley. Mess with the Sydney Funnel Web Spider and you could find yourself going home in body bag.

Admittedly this spider has a bad reputation and we’re really not helping here. So, appearances and gangster reputation aside, they pretty impressive creatures. Their signature is a set of thick fangs, which would make Dracula blush.

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Male venom more toxic
July 28, 2015|Animal Facts

Male venom more toxic

Male venom more toxic

It seems males and females are not created equal, especially when it comes to venom. Enter the Sydney Funnel Web spider, a hairy and scary looking spider that can be found in the moist cool forest areas of ….you guessed it, Sydney Australia.

Life starts off as an equal playing field (apart from the obvious differences in girl and boy bits) with the venom profiles being the same. They spend the first few years of their lives hanging around close to their burrows, which are usually found under rocks, rotting logs and in leaf litter.

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The Nature of Science (TNOS) showcases scientific research using our warped sense of humour, brains trust and creativity. See behind the microscopes, beakers and re-breathers as we dig a little deeper into the research and discovery of the natural world. If you want to take a walk on the wild side dust off your lab coats and jump on board as our talented team of scientists and world-class cinematographers use time-lapse and high-speed footage sequences to showcase science and nature like never before.
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WORLD FIRST FOR JELLY WRESTLERS - The scientists at James Cook University are a talented bunch and have just added another world first to their belt. They've grown polyps from the deadly Irukandji jellyfish, Carukia barnesi. The polyps reproduce asexually by budding off clones of themselves. This research will be used to better understand the factors that drive the timing and intensity of the Irukandji season. For more imformation check out our blog www.thenatureofscience.com.au/uncategorized/world-first-for-jelly-wrestlers/#more-234
Footage shot by Biopixel.
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In a world-first, researchers at James Cook University in Cairns have grown the polyp form of the potentially lethal Irukandji jellyfish, Carukia barnesi, in the laboratory. Video Biopixel

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Attack of the killer cone snail - It’s not the fastest animal going around, but what the cone shell has is patience, persistence and…… venomous harpoons that makes any animal wish it hadn’t crossed paths with it.

In this little video you can see the stromb shell trying to escape. It usually moves around on a big sticky foot, but dangerous situations like this call for more urgent action, so it uses its foot to jump away.

It’s a case of the tortoise and the hare. The stromb is quick to get out of the way, the cone shell; slow, patient and relentless. When the stromb is exhausted the cone pounces (actually it just slimes its way) on the stromb.

In this video you can see the oral siphon (the pink tip and black and white striped organ) smelling out its prey. When the prey is located and locked in on the cone shells proboscis (the bright orange thingy searching) comes out of the mouth, searches for a weak spot on its prey (in this case the soft flesh of the stromb) and delivers the final blow…. A venom loaded harpoon called a radula which paralyses the stromb and it’s eaten whole.

You can actually see the venom in the water, it’s the cloudy substance that comes out of the snail and to the left of the camera.
...

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