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August LabBits: A media tip sheet from the MBL in Woods Hole
Date:8/12/2008

MBL, WOODS HOLE, MASummer on Cape Cod is synonymous with a surge of tourists, but also a surge of scientists at the MBL (Marine Biological Laboratory). For more than a century, researchers have come to the MBL each summer from around the world to immerse themselves in biological discovery. Researchers enjoy the casual, collaborative atmosphere, the access to high-tech equipment and expertise, and the escape from academic duties at their home institutions. Here is a sampling of some of the research underway this summer at the MBL's Whitman Center for Visiting Research.

Invasion of the Comb Jellies

In the waters surrounding Woods Hole, Massachusetts, the warty comb jelly, Mnemiopsis ledyi, lives out its days, bumping against eel grass and collecting small crustaceans with its sticky tentacles. The delicate creature, which resembles a small jellyfish without the stinger, is just another member of the food web here on the Western Atlantic coast.

Across the ocean is a different story. Accidentally introduced to the Black Sea in the early 1980s, the warty comb jelly spread rapidly through the Caspian Sea in the 1990s and has most recently invaded the Baltic Sea. In Europe, M. ledyi is considered a voracious predator, easily snatching dinner from local fish. Countries surrounding the Baltic Sea are now concerned what's going to happen to their waters.

"Their impact seems to be increasing and that's been tied to warming water temperatures, giving them an ecological advantage," says Sean Colin, assistant professor of biology at Roger Williams University. He and John Costello, professor of biology at Providence College, are at the MBL this summer to determine who and how much M. ledyi eats.

Comb jellies are unique in how they process food. Eight rows of brush-like cilia beat against the water, creating a current that brings prey closer to the mouth. Using high-speed video, the team is observing the
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Contact: Diana Kenney
dkenney@mbl.edu
508-289-7139
Marine Biological Laboratory
Source:Eurekalert  

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