Untangling comb jelly culture

Try as she might, MacKenzie Bubel just couldn’t satisfy the baby comb jellies.

The aquarist was attempting to spawn a species called Mnemiopsis leidyi—ghostly-looking little creatures native to the Gulf of Mexico—in the Aquarium’s Jelly Lab. She tinkered with variables like water temperature, salinity and light exposure.

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Aquarist MacKenzie Bubel works in the Jelly Lab with lobed comb jellies (Bolinopsis infundibulum).

“We did some wacky stuff to get the conditions perfect,” she says, “but they weren’t doing as well as we’d hoped.”

That changed when our staff aquarists, in collaboration with University of Miami assistant professor William Browne, pioneered an efficient way to culture comb jellies en masse. The breakthrough—which we’re sharing with our colleagues—could eliminate the need for aquariums to collect comb jellies from the wild. It could also pave the way for deeper scientific study of these little-understood animals.

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