July 25, 2011 MBL Whitman Center researchers are testing a new underwater video camera system that will allow scientists to study the propulsion and behavior of jellies in their natural habitat.
In the lab, you can get a sense for how a jelly swims and captures its prey, explains Sean Colin, a marine ecologist at Roger Williams University, who helped to develop the system, called a self-contained underwater velocimetry apparatus, or SCUVA for short. But what's missing is the influence that ocean currents, nearly impossible to accurately mimic in an artificial setting, have on these processes. "That's what we need this system to answer," says Colin. "How important is this natural background flow to determining who they feed on and how much they're able to ingest?"
This summer, Colin, along with colleague John Costello, a biology professor at Providence College, will use the SCUVA to observe the warty comb jelly, a native species in plentiful supply in the waters off the coast of Woods Hole, Massachusetts. "Primarily what we're interested in is understanding how jellyfish and ctenophores (like these comb jellies) interact with their surrounding fluid, because that influences how they swim, who they eat and, ultimately, their impact on the ecosystem," says Colin. "The SCUVA is allowing us to do that."
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