Our Man on Gelatinous Zooplankton

When a Biblical plague of jellyfish invaded the packed beaches of Florida's Atlantic Coast on Memorial Day weekend, zapping over 400 swimmers, the New York Times turned to the authority of Alabama marine scientist Monte Graham.

“It's what they're supposed to do; it's a natural thing, ” said Graham, a senior marine scientist with the Dauphin Island Sea Lab and assistant professor at the University of South Alabama.

Not Biblical at all, Graham explained to the Times that Mauve stingers, Pelagia noctiluca, always gather to breed, releasing sperm and eggs into the water in a gelatinous mob.

“Unfortunately, it happened at the highest period of tourism in some of the most densely packed beaches in Florida, ” Graham said. “High density jellyfish meeting high density people.”

Here's a beach book suggestion. Graham's latest research paper, “Evidence for numerical and distributional changes of jellyfish populations in the northern Gulf of Mexico, ” is included in the recently published collection “Jellyfish Populations: Ecological and Economic Effects” from Kluwer Academic Publishers.

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By Chris McFadyen

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