Thursday, August 2, 2007

Jelly time!

Last night we visited the gorgeous (and surprisingly unsmokey) Alisal Guest Ranch in Solvang, where members of the extended Whackamole family are enjoying ranch living for a week. My brother-in-law greeted us with a margarita, which we sipped by the pool. Turns out, I would be an awesome cattle rancher: I like pools AND margaritas!

Anyway, we heard of their many guest ranch adventures: archery class, five-star dining, breakfast rides, and catch-and-release bass fishing were just a few of them. Alisal Ranch has a private lake, with a pier, paddle boats, and jellyfish. Um, yeah. Jellyfish, the size of a nickel. Swarms of them.

I'd never heard of freshwater jellyfish. How cool!

So, in the labyrinth of government agencies, it turns out that the U.S. Geological Survey keeps track of Non-native Aquatic Species (motto:"Putting the NAS back in NASTY"), including freshwater jellyfish. It turns out, if you flip a freshwater jellyfish over, you will be able to read "MADE IN CHINA" on the bottom.

Reading about these freshwater jellies—Craspedacusta sowerbyi, indigenous to China's Yangtze River valley—it doesn't sound like they're dangerous. They can sting, in theory, but their sting is not powerful enough to be felt by swimmers, in theory. (There are some things I'm just not interested in testing.) Scientists don't know much about them really, but they don't seem to harm local fish or have much effect on local ecosystems. Ah, sweet ignorance...

Jellyfish are fascinating. The Monterey Bay Aquarium has an awesome exhibit of jellies, and I spent most of a day mesmerized by little living lava lamps. I wish they had a jelly cam. I wish I could have a tankful of jellies at home. Unfortunately, jellyfish are pretty difficult to keep. Apparently, the freshwater jellyfish are no easier.

Plus, as much as I love jellyfish in the ocean or in aquariums, I'm unnerved by the little creatures suddenly appearing in a local pond. It ain't natchrell. Freshwater jellyfish, indeed. What's next? Sharks in Lake Cachuma?

Picture from the IUP Jellyfish Research Site

P.S. It's not your imagination. Birds really do sing when you visit the Alisal web site. Not that I was fooled at all...

No comments: