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jellyfish Photo by: Flickr/Rex Boggs

Brainless Jellyfish Detect, Swim Against Ocean Currents

by / February 10, 2015

For being heartless, brainless creatures, jellyfish are rather destructive -- they can wipe out  commercial fish farms in a night, terrify and sting open water swimmers, and disable power stations.

But a global team of scientists has made a discovery that could save millions of dollars for aquaculture and other industries: Jellyfish can do what birds and turtles can't -- detect the direction of ocean currents and strongly swim against them, according to Australia's Deakin University.

In waters off the coast of northern France, researchers at Deakin University and the UK's Swansea University used GPS loggers to track the movements of free-ranging barrel-jellyfish and GPS-tracked floats to record current flows. The researchers also observed the swimming direction of large numbers of jellyfish at the ocean's surface, and the GPS data showed that jellyfish can actively swim at counter-current in response to drift.

Whether the findings are replicated across other species of jellyfish has yet to be determined, but if it is? "We can solve a universal problem," said Professor Graeme Hays, Marine Science chair at Deakin University. "Understanding the distribution of jellyfish in the open ocean may be practically useful for predicting and avoiding troublesome jellyfish blooms and, for example, aquaculture farms can use that information to protect their fish.