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Jellyfish research using biOrbs at James Cook University

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From left to right. Associate Professor Jamie Seymour, Avril Underwood and Sandy Taylor


Founded over ten years ago and still headed up by Associate Professor Jamie Seymour the Tropical Australian Singer Research Unit (TASRU) is based at James Cook University in Cairns, in Tropical Queensland.

Their main focus is research into the ecology of venomous animals including marine stingers such as the deadly box jellyfish (Chironex fleckeri) and the Irukandji jellyfish, which are responsible for many hospitalisations in the north of Australia each year. They also look at terrestrial animals such as venomous spiders, scorpions and snakes. In short, they love living on the edge with the world's most venomous creatures!

Avril Underwood from the James Cook University is working on Jellyfish research. She says “One of the main challenges of Jellyfish is getting solid and reliable data. They are transparent and seasonal which makes them  extremely difficult to track. What we aim to do with certain species is to collect the adults at spawning events in the hope of getting the resulting planula to settle and metamorphose into the polyp stage of the jellyfish lifecycle”.

The University has had great success in starting and maintaining a culture of a species from the outer Barrier Reef known as Alatina mordens (a Carybdeid jellyfish - defined as having a single extending from each of it's four pedalia, or arms).

Avril claims “biOrbs have been instrumental in keeping these cultures in a closed, temperature-controlled and easy-to-maintain environment. Last year, we had another success in locating a spawning population of a second carybdeid species in the marina at Port Douglas, just north of Cairns. We collect spawning animals, relocate them to our aquarium facility and manage to successfully raise the polyps right through to their metamorphosis into small jellyfish. This result is all the more exciting as very few complete cubozoan life-cycles have ever been recorded”.

This season, their goal is to get the big box jellyfish into culture in their facility. In doing so, it may answer many questions such as where are these polyps found in the wild? Why can this species only be found in Tropical locations? How long is their life cycle and how do they spawn? All this is not only relevant to science but to the general public as a whole as it may unravel some important clues as to how to manage our beaches to reduce the impact of these animals coming in contact with humans.

The aquarium facility at James Cook University has also been used for many projects including the Great Barrier Reef series currently showing on BBC2 and BBC iPlayer.

Click here to visit the BBC iPlayer.

Click here to find out more about the James Cook University

“biOrbs have been instrumental in keeping these cultures in a closed, temperature-controlled and easy-to-maintain environment"

Associate Professor Jamie SeymourAvril Underwood and Associate Professor Jamie SeymourUpside down Jelly fish. CassiopieaMedusaPolyp and metamorphosing polypSandy Taylor and Avril Underwood with three research biOrbs
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