Don't shoot him - you'll only make him mad
February 10, 2008 6:49 AM   Subscribe

Invasion of the Jellyfish The box jellyfish [AKA Sea Wasp] is so packed with venom that the briefest of touches can bring agonising death within 180 seconds. And if comes under sustained attack it responds by sending its compatriots into a super-breeding frenzy in which millions of replacements are created. The really bad news is that the box jellyfish and another equally poisonous species, Irukandji, are on the move. Scientists are warning that their populations are exploding and will pose a monumental problem unless they are stopped. First aid for stings.
posted by Kirth Gerson (75 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
 
Get stung? Just man up and pee on it.
posted by cyclopticgaze at 7:07 AM on February 10, 2008


Between the sharks and the poisonous octopus I already wouldn't consider swimming in Australia but thanks for yet another reason.

cyclopticgaze writes "Get stung? Just man up and pee on it."

The second link says urine doesn't work. You need vinegar.
posted by Mitheral at 7:16 AM on February 10, 2008


cyclopticgaze.....Just man up and pee on it.

"no other first aid remedy that is recommended, despite what you may read elsewhere (methylated spirits, ammonia, urine, bicarbonate soda and what not...)"

perhaps if you were to get that other eye fixed you might not miss those factoids...

I stayed out of the damn ocean for 35 years because of "Jaws", now I can't go swimming because of some blob of jelly.....
posted by HuronBob at 7:16 AM on February 10, 2008


...or what mitheral said..preview is your friend......
posted by HuronBob at 7:17 AM on February 10, 2008


Global warming -> one giant sea of jellies.
posted by anthill at 7:30 AM on February 10, 2008 [1 favorite]


I think it’s safe to say jellyfish are going to take over the world. In Japan, the population of Nomura Jellyfish is exploding. This resulted in mass slaughtering of the species. This was counterintuitive, however, because as a defense mechanism, Nomuras release all their sperm and eggs before they die. The fertilized eggs sink to the bottom of the ocean floor and develop in peace. The blooming process was normally a rare occurrence, but it’s been discovered that a change in water temperature stresses the jellyfish out and forces a bloom. And considering jellyfish are one of the few sea creatures that can survive in algae-caused dead spots, they’ve become the biggest benefactors of global warming and pollution.
posted by AdamFlybot at 7:34 AM on February 10, 2008


Peeing on the sting site, or pouring alcohol on it, sets off any untriggered sting cells. Not helpful.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 7:35 AM on February 10, 2008


agonising death within 180 seconds.

Is that like three minutes, only more cinematic?

I think it’s safe to say jellyfish are going to take over the world.

Not until they learn how to walk.
posted by pracowity at 7:41 AM on February 10, 2008


Interesting and hair-raising article. However, I kinda sorta wonder if the Telegraph got some of their 'science' reporting wrong, or decided to 'sex up' some of the details.

I suspect this because of:

a) the photos that accompany the article are of not 'box jellyfish', which are not jellyfish, but generic stock photos of jellyfish (of course, who's going to swim up and take a photo of a box jellyfish?).

b) the stuff about Japan. The article says that 'perplexed Japanese salmon fishermen are seen hauling in tonnes of box jellyfish in their nets.'

First of all, 'box jellyfish' (which, remember, are not even true jellyfish) are notable because of their deadly sting. You wouldn't be able to haul tons of them in with a net without starting a fire or nuclear explosion.

As well, the article says that Japanese fishermen decided to counter the problem with a 'fleet of commandeered fishing boats to drag razor-sharp wire through them'.

This isn't true either, in that Japanese fishermen actually used their own boats, and were not combating box jellyfish, which, as far as not common in the salmon fishing grounds off the coast of Hokkaido.

The article is actually referring to a population explosion of Nomura's jellyfish (a true jellyfish, Echizen kurage, in Japanese) that has become a problem along the coast of the Japan Sea, especially off Fukui Prefecture, my 'home' in Japan.

They don't fish for salmon there, they fish for squid, yellowtail, mackeral and flounder.

It's unfortunate that the article got the facts wrong, because the 'rise of slime' is truly frightening. Jellyfish are truly on the move.

But what mixed-up and goofy article from the Telegraph.
posted by KokuRyu at 7:55 AM on February 10, 2008 [14 favorites]


I noticed the wrong photos, but had no idea about the other mistakes.

Stand down, humanity!
posted by Kirth Gerson at 8:01 AM on February 10, 2008


Four brains that operate competitively in the search for food.
A total of 24 eyes with moveable pupils giving them 360-degree visibility.


We are doomed.

And thanks for that great "rise of slime" article, KokuRyu; I'm halfway through and it's gripping stuff.
posted by mediareport at 8:11 AM on February 10, 2008


From KokuRyu's 'rise of slime' link:

After one man bit a fishing line in two, his mouth and tongue swelled so badly that he couldn't eat solid food for a week. Others made an even more painful mistake, neglecting to wash the residue from their hands before relieving themselves over the sides of their boats.

Shudder...
posted by PeterMcDermott at 8:16 AM on February 10, 2008


@Kokuryu: Well, the first impression I had on reading the article is that the line "Billions of small jellyfish, known as Mauve Stingers" and onward is essentially describing the film Invasion of the Jellyfish. It immediately explains the sexing up of details, heh.
posted by kureshii at 8:20 AM on February 10, 2008


In the space of about 18 hours I read a paper on Peak Oil, watched an episode of Planet Earth: The Future, and read the articles in this thread.

I think I'm ready to get back in bed and await the end times in the fetal position.
posted by danb at 8:28 AM on February 10, 2008 [3 favorites]


From the first link:
The only deterrent so far found is a colour - red. The jellyfish simply ploughed through white-coloured poles in the water and swam round black poles but they stayed as far away as they could from red poles.
M. Night Shyamalan will save us!
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:33 AM on February 10, 2008 [1 favorite]


hmmm- do they also avoid red czechs?

OW! Ouch! OK, I'll stop....
posted by drhydro at 8:37 AM on February 10, 2008


Great. Now I have to go hide in the attic, stock up on guns and read H.P. Lovecraft looking for vulnerabilities.
posted by PlusDistance at 8:43 AM on February 10, 2008


Time to befriend the turtles.
posted by Abiezer at 8:47 AM on February 10, 2008


That "rise of slime" article is fascinating:

Dense schools of these small fish once swam the world's estuaries and coastal waters, inhaling plankton like swarming clouds of silvery vacuum cleaners...bacteria and algae run wild in the absence of the many mouths that once ate them. As the depletion of fish allows the lowest forms of life to run rampant, said Pauly, it is "transforming the oceans into a microbial soup."

Jellyfish are flourishing in the soup, demonstrating their ability to adapt to wholesale changes — including the growing human appetite for them...Pauly, 60, predicts that future generations will see nothing odd or unappetizing about a plateful of these gelatinous blobs.

"My kids," Pauly said, "will tell their children: Eat your jellyfish."

[...]

Nancy Rabalais, executive director of the Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium, has spent most of her career peering into waters that resemble those of the distant past. On research dives off the Louisiana coast, she has seen cottony white bacteria coating the seafloor. The sulfurous smell of rotten eggs, from a gas produced by the microbes, has seeped into her mask. The bottom is littered with the ghostly silhouettes of dead crabs, sea stars and other animals.

The cause of death is decaying algae. Fed by millions of tons of fertilizer, human and animal waste, and other farm runoff racing down the Mississippi River, tiny marine plants run riot, die and drift to the bottom. Bacteria then take over. In the process of breaking down the plant matter, they suck the oxygen out of seawater, leaving little or none for fish or other marine life.

Years ago, Rabalais popularized a term for this broad area off the Louisiana coast: the "dead zone." In fact, dead zones aren't really dead. They are teeming with life — most of it bacteria and other ancient creatures that evolved in an ocean without oxygen and that need little to survive.

"There are tons and tons of bacteria that live in dead zones," Rabalais said. "You see this white snot-looking stuff all over the bottom."

Other primitive life thrives too. A few worms do well, and jellyfish feast on the banquet of algae and microbes.

The dead zone off Louisiana, the second largest after one in the Baltic Sea, is a testament to the unintended consequences of manufacturing nitrogen fertilizer on a giant scale to support American agriculture...The same forces at work in the mouth of the Mississippi have helped create 150 dead zones around the world, including parts of the Chesapeake Bay and waters off the Oregon and Washington coasts...

Robert Diaz, a professor at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science, has been tracking the spread of low-oxygen zones. He has determined that the number is nearly doubling every decade, fed by a worldwide cascade of nutrients — or as he puts it, energy. We stoke the ocean with energy streaming off the land, he said, and with no clear pathways up the food chain, this energy fuels an explosion of microbial growth. These microbes have been barely noticeable for millions of years, tucked away like the pilot light on a gas stove.

"Now," Diaz said, "the stove has been turned on."

posted by mediareport at 8:48 AM on February 10, 2008 [1 favorite]


What we need to do is to develop a race of massively fertile super-predators to feast on the jellyfish, maybe aquatic funnel-web spiders with laser-shooting eyes, then introduce them into the oceans. They'll take care of our little jellyfish problem, leaving us with absolutely nothing to worry about.
posted by WPW at 8:56 AM on February 10, 2008 [4 favorites]


I for one welcome ... such an interesting documentary on the changing migration patterns of animals due to global climate change. Do we have any clues about why the population is exploding or why the box jellies seem to be moving into new territories?
posted by kscottz at 9:00 AM on February 10, 2008


hopefully the continent-sized garbage dump swirling around the middle of the pacific will keep them from our fare shoares...
posted by kliuless at 9:06 AM on February 10, 2008


Not until they learn how to walk.

I'm sure the rising seas levels are going to help the jellyfish a little. And considering two thirds of the world's cities with over five million people are located in low-lying coastal areas, the jellyfish are eventually going to have the chance to plunder these areas.

Still, I think 'Planet of the Jellyfish' would have been far more believable (and terrifying!) film.
posted by AdamFlybot at 9:16 AM on February 10, 2008


... 'box jellyfish', which are not jellyfish, ...

Heck, they're not even fish!
posted by sour cream at 9:27 AM on February 10, 2008


Take that, "higher" life forms! Jellyfish killed the dinosaurs, they're going to kill us, and they'll kill whatever eventually replaces us.
posted by Mr. President Dr. Steve Elvis America at 9:30 AM on February 10, 2008


What we need to do is to develop a race of massively fertile super-predators to feast on the jellyfish, maybe aquatic funnel-web spiders with laser-shooting eyes, then introduce them into the oceans.

I think the earth already had something like that. It was called "higher life forms."

Alas, dumbass humans have been making a concerted effort to kill all those higher life forms.

We are so fucked for a future. We're going to be one of the few complex species on a planet of slime and jelly. Idiots we are.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:31 AM on February 10, 2008


I heard Iran was responsible.
posted by Tube at 9:43 AM on February 10, 2008


We are so fucked for a future. We're going to be one of the few complex species on a planet of slime and jelly. Idiots we are.

That's a depressing way to look at it. I'm sure our great-grandchildren will learn to love slime and jelly, just like we learned to love cats and dogs.

Other complex life turned out just not to be good enough. They had millions of years to prepare for a relentless onslaught of toxic slime and hairless apes, and what did they do? Pranced around in the forest eating nuts, or swam around raping each other all day.

They had their fun, and now Darwin has come knocking.
posted by Mr. President Dr. Steve Elvis America at 9:47 AM on February 10, 2008 [1 favorite]


We need to call SpongeBob and Patrick.
posted by Sailormom at 9:50 AM on February 10, 2008 [1 favorite]


Mr President, name one other animal that was completely exterminated by another, outside of humans.

Name one animal who's waste could kill everything higher than bacteria, in regions of hundreds of miles - and do this day after day.

This has nothing to do with Darwin. We've essentially leveraged technology to temporarily game ourselves out of the system. But the system always gets its due.

Oh, and that jellyfish? It's an extremely low-energy animal - one reason why they are so successful in the new environment we're making for them. It's 21 calories per cup. You'd have to eat 12 pounds of the stuff every day just to get your minimum caloric requirements.
posted by Bora Horza Gobuchul at 10:25 AM on February 10, 2008


Name one animal who's waste could kill everything higher than bacteria, in regions of hundreds of miles - and do this day after day.

The cyanobacteria, aka blue-green algae — a toxic strain of which can now, under the right conditions, cover the seabed at the rate of one football field per hour as described in the LA Times article linked above. Cyanobacteria destroyed pretty much all other life on Earth a few billion years back — in part by flooding the atmosphere with free oxygen, eventually allowing the development of higher life forms.

The cyanobacteria giveth, and the cyanobacteria taketh away.
posted by enn at 10:33 AM on February 10, 2008 [3 favorites]


enn: bacteria isn't an animal: no membrane-bound organelles. I'd also point out that human beings are creating the conditions for them to thrive. Thank you for the article, though.
posted by Bora Horza Gobuchul at 10:52 AM on February 10, 2008


This has nothing to do with Darwin. We've essentially leveraged technology to temporarily game ourselves out of the system. But the system always gets its due.

What on earth are you talking about? A species can't just opt out of Darwinian evolution. The world is changing, like it has before, and many species are no longer well adapted and are dying off, like many have before.
posted by Mr. President Dr. Steve Elvis America at 10:54 AM on February 10, 2008


"My kids," Pauly said, "will tell their children: Eat your jellyfish."

It should be said that not everything Daniel Pauly says is accepted by one and all. I know the CEO of a large fisheries-monitoring organization here on the BC coast who says that Daniel Pauly (he currently is employed by the University of BC in Vancouver) is a little too doom-and-gloom about the future of fisheries. Then again, Pauly knows what he's talking about. His most stunningly cool achievement is Fishbase, a directory and database of the world's fish.
posted by KokuRyu at 11:00 AM on February 10, 2008


I feel like the urine rumor was just started by some pee fetishist who lived near the beach.
posted by jonson at 11:06 AM on February 10, 2008 [1 favorite]


Bora Horza: It's 21 calories per cup.

What if you dry it first?
BTW, they do eat jellyfish in Japan and, I believe, also in China and probably Korea as well.
It's cut into small strips and much less yucky than it sounds.
posted by sour cream at 11:07 AM on February 10, 2008


KokuRyu:

Thank you for the fantastic article. It was worth the read.
posted by thewalrusispaul at 11:07 AM on February 10, 2008


name one other animal that was completely exterminated by another, outside of humans.

I don't have any examples off the top of my head besides the oxygen catastrophe, but I'm going to go right ahead and assume that interspecies competition and predation have been involved in many extinctions.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 11:25 AM on February 10, 2008


Mr President, let Me break it down for you, as best I can. I was not suggesting that we've opted out of evolution. (Quite the contrary, as we're guiding our own evolution and that of other species at a faster and faster rate).

Let's take your normal predator-prey relationship - wolves and deer in Yellowstone, as an example. A booming population in prey will cause an associated boom in predators. Too many predators will crash the prey population, and thus the predators themselves. The predators can go after smaller, less energy-rewarding creatures for a time (rabbits, for example), but will eventually decline until they are back in rough equilibrium with their main prey. The surviving animals carry features that their descendants inherit, becoming swifter predators and more agile prey.

Human beings have two things on our side: tools and our omnivorous appetites. When one species crashes, we can move on to another, and then another. Further, we can safeguard ourselves, for a limited time, from consequences: use tools to create agriculture, for example.

You're suggesting that technology is somehow interconnected with Darwin, when it is not. Any species that has technology swiftly gains a complete advantage over every other. You're suggesting that nutrient runoff from fertilizer is somehow "natural", and that planetary life should just "deal". It's even possible that it could, given centuries. But the Haber-Bosch process that gives us that fertilizer from natural gas is less than a hundred years old, and massive commercial application of it far less than that.

What we've done - what we think we've done - is protect ourselves from consequences. You're essentially saying, "I want my cheeseburger now, and the world should just adapt. If it doesn't, it wasn't strong enough." You're confusing your technology with natural processes. They're not the same. What I'm telling you is the bill is coming due.

TheOnlyCoolTim - find a cite for me, please. There are plenty of species extinction events through predation, but only with man as a prime cause: canoes bringing cats to Pacific Islands, for example. It doesn't seem to exist in nature without man.
posted by Bora Horza Gobuchul at 11:33 AM on February 10, 2008 [2 favorites]


Get stung? Just man up and pee on it.

Ummm.... the pee thing does not work and more than likely was just made up by some weirdo that likes to pee on people. Probably just sitting there on his beach chair, drinking ice cold beers, waiting for the shrieks of pain to come scrambling out of the ocean.

I know this is difficult ma'am, but I can help you.

Sir, it doesn't seem to be working, and it keeps splattering in my face.

Oops sorry. Just wait, it takes a few minutes to kick in.
posted by Mr_Zero at 11:44 AM on February 10, 2008


The Atlantic ocean is pretty jellyfishy too. Go to Price Edward Island in the summer, and you'll see what I mean. They swarm the beaches. You can't go two feet without hitting jelly. Their stings won't kill you, but jeez they're gross.
posted by Sys Rq at 11:48 AM on February 10, 2008


TheOnlyCoolTim - find a cite for me, please. There are plenty of species extinction events through predation, but only with man as a prime cause: canoes bringing cats to Pacific Islands, for example. It doesn't seem to exist in nature without man.

Too busy to dig up a cite, but if you acknowledge that the introduction of cats to isolated Pacific islands can cause extinctions, I think you have to acknowledge that over evolutionary timescales cats might have ended up on these isolated islands without man, especially if they crashed together into part of a supercontinent, the Earth gets colder (which has happened without man) and there's an ice bridge, or something like that.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 12:23 PM on February 10, 2008


Get stung? Just man up and pee on it.

TV show Survivor has steered me wrong again. Mark Burnett, you will pay for this!
posted by cyclopticgaze at 12:33 PM on February 10, 2008


Yet another reason for me to not go swimming in the ocean. Sitting back and really contemplating the depths of the ocean really freaks me out.
posted by MaryDellamorte at 12:38 PM on February 10, 2008


TheOnlyCoolTime - could it have happened? Sure, over geological time scales. Maybe. But we have no proof of such an event ever happening. So far, the only evidence we have of one animal causing the complete extermination of another species - from multiple examples - is human predation.
posted by Bora Horza Gobuchul at 12:42 PM on February 10, 2008


A friend used to live in Cairns (Queensland) and often went snorkeling in The Great Barrier Reef. He said the best protection against box jellies is pantyhose (sheer nylons). You can get get stung and it still hurts beyond anything imaginable, but apparently not as much poison is delivered and you'll live.

(Of course I have no way of knowing if this is just an example of Aussies pulling the foreigner's leg.)
posted by phliar at 12:49 PM on February 10, 2008


One of the links mentions lifeguards wearing pantyhose as protection.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 1:09 PM on February 10, 2008


Four brains that operate competitively in the search for food.

The doom-and-gloom article is ludicrous. This scary nugget just means their nervous system is not complex enough to cohere into a recognizable brain. Ganglia that compete do not four scary brains make.
posted by fcummins at 1:16 PM on February 10, 2008


So far, the only evidence we have of one animal causing the complete extermination of another species - from multiple examples - is human predation.

Come on, there's a documented background extinction rate. You're saying extinctions are only caused by:

-Non-biological pressures such as meteors, abiogenic climate change, volcanoes
-Humans

Cut out your anthropocentrism. We have at best partial explanations for any prehistoric extinction, and most of that's only for the mass extinction events, not the background extinctions. We do have evidence for things like the existence of supercontinents and ice bridges which provide an easily identifial mechanism for extinctions, but those aren't even necessary to posit that biological causes play a role in extinction. Humans are causing more and faster extinctions, but it's a difference of degree rather than kind (as are most differences between mankind and other lifeforms as a group - see this interesting thread where people kept trying to come up with qualitatively unique things only humans do and most of them got shot down), and by no means are we out of the evolution game. We've expanded it to social/intellectual/cultural arenas with different bases than genes and different selective pressures, but we're still in the game.

Saying the concrete example given, the oxygen catastrophe, doesn't count because they were bacteria is rather arbitrary.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 1:24 PM on February 10, 2008 [1 favorite]


I have been warning people about this shit for ages. We need to exterminate the jellyfish as quickly as possible. Their horrible games are coming from everywhere, they are invading our waters and will next invade our land. Someone in another thread about these fucking evil monsters joked they were going to cross a lungfish with a jellyfish, but I swear to God, the jellyfish are going to find a way to do that themselves and then we will all be well and truly fucked.

Guys, the jellyfish are the true horrors of global warming. And I truly think if you look close enough they are connected to the cause. I wouldn't put it past those scheming, passive-aggressive, manipulative motherfuckers. They know what they're doing. They know.

And don't eat them! You can't eat them! That's how they connect you to the hive! That's how monstrous they are, they're so numerous that they will sacrifice themselves so the Jellyfish Mind can invade your body for its dark purposes.

I can't believe some of you are joking about this. Have you ever been in the waters with jellyfish? They're worse than sharks. You can't avoid them. You think they're just floating, but they're not, they're gunning for you and you are going to get screwed. You think this is all funny now, but wait until they've got you in their poisonous tentacles and their digestive juices are oozing into your orifices. Cloverfield has fucking nothing on the jellyfish.

Extinctions are caused by jellyfish. By JELLYFISH. I guarantee that if you interviews CEOs of companies causing the most egregious environmental problems they have been invaded by jellyfish. It's part of their PLAN.
posted by schroedinger at 1:30 PM on February 10, 2008 [2 favorites]


Stop fighting. Give up. Invertebrates are going to take over our planet. This pathetic species can do nothing to stop it. My only hope is that it happens sooner than later.

Just. Give. Up.
posted by baphomet at 2:06 PM on February 10, 2008


TheOnlyCoolTim - I've asked you for a citation for your position. I'd truly be interested to see one. Otherwise, you're arguing from belief, not fact. Bacteria aren't animals - that's why I worded my challenge for Mr President the way I did.
posted by Bora Horza Gobuchul at 2:33 PM on February 10, 2008


There's a term for the assumption made in BOG's argument here. Can anyone help me out? Something along the lines of it being fallacious to believe that natural systems (especially those containing life) tends towards equilibrium, when it in fact is a constantly churning, fluctuating type of thing. Kinda confounds out the wolf vs deer model.

However, I'm not arguing that humans find themselves in a fairly unique situation, though. While we may just be a player of the whole natural fluctuation dance, we are a remarkably powerful and sentient player. We have some understanding of our place in the world and how we can affect, and we're trying to expand that understanding.

The trick will be learning and moving fast enough to not kill ourselves and continually dealing with the law of unintended consequences. We created agriculture to help sustain ourselves. This lead to a population boom. We kicked agriculture into crazy-ass high gear with factory farming in order to sustain our booming population. This is now apparently resulting in the proliferation of an aquatic ecosystem that may imperil us and our way of life. Now what?
posted by es_de_bah at 3:39 PM on February 10, 2008


Also, OF COURSE competition and predation have caused animals to go extinct. That's implied by Darwinism, no? Rarer, and more alarming, are instances of mass extinction and/or across the board genetic forking along the lines of the punctuated equilibrium theory of evolution. Such pan-eco-system shifts are much rarer and usually linked with catastrophic natural disasters.

The pertinent bit about humans in all this is our ability to comprehend our own ability to create such disasters. Therein lies the (perhaps futile) hope that we can avoid death by our own hands as well as cope with potentially catastrophic natural occurrences.

It's much easier to destroy the world as we no it than preserve it. We have the nukes. We have the viruses. We have technology to block out the sun. We aren't so hot on combating aquatic bacteria explosions or massive volcanic eruptions or meteors.
posted by es_de_bah at 3:52 PM on February 10, 2008


no = know
posted by es_de_bah at 3:53 PM on February 10, 2008


Bora Horza Gobuchul,

When the Isthmus of Panama formed, joining North and South America as one landmass, the migration of North American placental mammals rapidly exterminated almost all of the indigenous marsupials.
posted by [expletive deleted] at 4:08 PM on February 10, 2008


KILLER BEES!
posted by Dillonlikescookies at 4:39 PM on February 10, 2008


Previously.

KILLER BEES!
Save yourself! Your firearms are useless against them!

posted by Tehanu at 6:59 PM on February 10, 2008




You're suggesting that technology is somehow interconnected with Darwin, when it is not. Any species that has technology swiftly gains a complete advantage over every other.

That doesn't make any sense, unless you're claiming that the ability to take advantage of technology isn't at all hereditable, and it clearly is.

In any event, humanity's use of technology has altered the competitive landscape for other organisms. Traits that used to be valuable are becoming deprecated, and traits that were formerly marginal are becoming more crucial.

You're suggesting that nutrient runoff from fertilizer is somehow "natural", and that planetary life should just "deal". It's even possible that it could, given centuries.

I don't see any meaningful distinction between the "natural" and "unnatural." Everything that happens, ever, is due to the operation of the natural laws of physics, chemistry, and biology.

I don't think planetary life "should" do anything. Planetary life either will adapt or it will die, just like always.

What we've done - what we think we've done - is protect ourselves from consequences. You're essentially saying, "I want my cheeseburger now, and the world should just adapt. If it doesn't, it wasn't strong enough." You're confusing your technology with natural processes. They're not the same. What I'm telling you is the bill is coming due.

This is contradictory. If we've protected ourselves from the consequences, no bill will come due. But if we exterminate ourselves, we weren't very fit to begin with, were we?

I think it's silly to get upset over the extinction and evolution of species, even our own. Personally, I find the rapid change of the past few centuries exciting.
posted by Mr. President Dr. Steve Elvis America at 8:55 PM on February 10, 2008


Humans are a potentially catastrophic natural disaster. Both for other species and ourselves.

Everything that happens, ever, is due to the operation of the natural laws of physics, chemistry, and biology.

I apologize in advance for my physics, chemistry, and/or biology for this:

You are such a twit, Steve. And your inane "argument" brings nothing of any use to the discussion: it offers no insights, provides no guidelines, generates no course of action. The planets spin, life on earth comes and goes, there is nothing to be done: that is the sum of your babble. How boring.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:35 PM on February 10, 2008


I don't see any meaningful distinction between the "natural" and "unnatural." Everything that happens, ever, is due to the operation of the natural laws of physics, chemistry, and biology.

Perhaps you should look harder? Human-caused problems are often correctable by fixing the cause, or at least not doing that again. e.g. not using huge ammounts of fertilizer, or not introducing cats/rats/goats/snakes to islands, etc.

I think it's silly to get upset over the extinction and evolution of species, even our own. Personally, I find the rapid change of the past few centuries exciting.


I'm personally in the camp that feels the world is a sadder, emptier place when a species or an ecosystem gets wiped out.
posted by sebastienbailard at 9:57 PM on February 10, 2008


Feel free to throw something along the lines of "box jellyfish scars" in to Google image search to get some more idea of how lovely these things are. I remember in a first aid course I did when they got to the bit about these the advice went "wait for the person who was stung to stop screaming and fall over (they'll fall over because they've stopped breathing), then wash off the tentacles with vinegar if you can and commence CPR". Of course if they're still in the water do you sit back and watch them drown or do you wade in to an area you know is full of stinger tentacles in an attempt to save them?
posted by markr at 10:40 PM on February 10, 2008


You are such a twit, Steve. And your inane "argument" brings nothing of any use to the discussion: it offers no insights, provides no guidelines, generates no course of action.

Well, no. My preference is that nothing be done, and I've explained why. Your preference is apparently that something be done.

You're really making me laugh, though. It's like you're ranting about the "catastrophe" of Vanilla Coke being withdrawn.

I mean, Christ, whatever. Try to get it back if it was that important to you, but it really doesn't make a fuck bit of difference.
posted by Mr. President Dr. Steve Elvis America at 11:09 PM on February 10, 2008


Artist's Rendition
posted by sebastienbailard at 1:26 AM on February 11, 2008


Steve, are you just assuming that there will be no consequences for our own species from these die-offs, or you just don't give a damn about our species either?
posted by AdamCSnider at 1:57 AM on February 11, 2008


... 'box jellyfish', which are not jellyfish, ...
Heck, they're not even fish!


Heck, they're not even jelly!
posted by penguin pie at 3:00 AM on February 11, 2008


So there I was, learning how to sea-kayak. Just me, another guy, two women, and the instructor. And there is no point in pretending: I was by far the worst student. I couldn't make that kayak do anything. Worse yet, the instructor had decided for some reason that whenever a new technique was being shown, I should always be the first to try what he'd just shown us.

"Okay, did you all see what Ritchie did wrong there?"

But it was still fun, and now the day was nearly over and we were floating in the shelter of the breakwall, watching the yachts come flying in and do their graceful loops into the marina. But then, he wanted us to learn how to deal with a capsize. He ran us through what would happen, and then looked at me.

"Got that, Rich?"

"Uh-huh."

"Great, mate. Tip yourself over."

I looked at the darkening water and saw a jelly bobbing there, minding it's own business. I suddenly became very aware of how little I was wearing. I laughed nervously.

"Uh, there's -"

"You'll be fine, mate. Over you go."

The others were all smiling and nodding encouragement. The jelly seemed to be floating in towards the shore, away from me. It was just a little one. I grew irritated at my own cowardice (for all I knew, the jelly was harmless), and slapped at the jelly with my paddle. It was enough to tip me over.

The first thing I was supposed to do after capsizing was reach a hand up and knock on the hull of my kayak, supposedly to alert people to the fact that I was upside-down. Then I was supposed to pull the spray deck free and actually get out of the kayak.

Instead I opened my eyes underwater and realized I was hopelessly trapped upside down in the midst of a jelly swarm. Most of them were quite deep, but a few were rising up to meet me. I imagined them engulfing my body, stinging filaments drifting into my nasal passages and under my eyelids, convulsions, death...

So I kinda lost my shit. Technically, I managed to knock on the hull, although it probably looked to the others like I was trying to claw my way through it. Then I wrestled with the spray deck until it somehow came loose, and then I scrambled free of the kayak and tried to will myself to float on top of the water through surface tension.

"Okay, did everyone see that moment of panic there, just after he went under? That's completely normal. You did fine, Rich, just fine."

I managed the slightly complicated maneuver of getting back into my kayak flawlessly and at great speed. I actually managed to get back in before he was through describing how I should do so. The instructor grinned at me.

"How're you feeling?"

"Great. Awesome. Never better" I babbled. Then a nasty thought struck me.

"Hey, you've been promising to show us an eskimo roll all day" I said. "I'd really like to see it. Right now, in fact."
posted by Ritchie at 4:32 AM on February 11, 2008


'Heck, they're not even jelly!'

How come our American cousins don't call them jellofish?
posted by surfdad at 4:36 AM on February 11, 2008


Jelly is what we make from grapes and other fruit. Jello comes from hooves. Because we don't call jello-brand gelatine and its competitors 'jelly' means we should call jellyfish 'jellofish'?
posted by Kirth Gerson at 7:50 AM on February 11, 2008


Mr. President, I've come to the conclusion you're either a troll or willfully obtuse, so I'll just ignore you from now on. Thanks for playing.

[expletive deleted], I don't wish to pull the thread much further off topic than I already have, but if you have a cite for that I'd be very interested. It's my understanding that, short of strong evidence of cometary / asteroid impacts (like the one that ended the Jurassic), there's no "set cause" for species extinction before the Holocene. The extinction you've mentioned could well be disease or intensified competition for resources, for example, rather than predation.

Along similar lines, es_de_bah - if you say of course it has happened, you need to show it. I don't share that particular interpretation of Darwin at all: while it's been a very long time since I've read The Descent of Man, I don't recall Darwin talking about, or even considering, extinction. Species morphology under selective pressure, yes. But not extinction. To Darwin, the surviving elands would be swifter, and less likely to fall as prey.

Your own citation implies that you may be confused on the term: "Punctuated equilibrium is often confused with... the phenomenon of mass extinction."

Again, if you can show it: "species x was made extinct as a direct result of the predation of species y, and here's the proof," as I can say "dodos were made extinct by predation from humans", then I would be very interested. But so far I see a lot of hand-waving and "Of course it happened!"

Feel free to use MeFi mail, if you wish, rather than in-thread. And I apoligise in advance if I'm unclear on any of this: I'm rather tired today.
posted by Bora Horza Gobuchul at 8:38 AM on February 11, 2008


Who the hell cares about jellyfish? They're like Jaws, stay the hell out of the water and you're fine. You want to end global warming, you publicize these two facts:

1. Global warming will lead to an explosion in insect populations.

2. There are already 1.5 billion insects on earth per person.

Know anyone who had a baby recently? Congratulations! There are now another 1.5 billion insects to devour it. You know what happens when you have an explosion in population with 1.5 billion as your starting point? You get centipedes, earwigs, roaches, and silverfish flooding up out of your sink drains and toilets. And when they do, they'll be hungry.

So hungry...
posted by Pastabagel at 1:10 PM on February 11, 2008


penguin pie : Heck, they're not even jelly!

*spits out peanut-butter and box jellyfish sandwich*

Now you tell me! Is this why my mouth is burning? Or my tongue is swelling? Or I'm going into convulsions?

Stupid toxic delicious jellys.
posted by quin at 2:00 PM on February 11, 2008


The extinction you've mentioned could well be disease or intensified competition for resources, for example, rather than predation.

You keep being very meaninglessly arbitrary. First the bacteria don't count, now non-predatory competition doesn't count. Also, your "I didn't see it with my own eyes so it didn't happen" is one of the same arguments creationists use against evolution as a whole.

Now that I have time for cites, I'll let you know that I am enrolled in a very large university. That means I get ALL THE SCIENTIFIC LITERATURE. Meanwhile, I know fuck-all about searching for articles outside my field, so an actual biologist would probably have something in ten minutes while I'm groping in the dark over weird proxies, databases, and databases of databases, but here's a couple cites:

Population Size, Extinction, and Speciation: The Fission Effect in Neogene Bivalvia
Steven M. Stanley
Paleobiology, Vol. 12, No. 1. (Winter, 1986), pp. 89-110.

This is a pretty dense article about clams, and the thrust of it is not along the lines of our argument, but here's a money quote:

"Both of these advantages render siphonate taxa superior to nonsiphonate taxa in avoiding predators (Stanley 1977, 1982). The incidence of death by predation is difficult to assess from dead shells, which some predators destroy, but it has been observed that in Eocene faunas of the Paris Basin, shallow-burrowing nonsiphonate species were heavily preyed on by epifaunal muricid snails, while siphonate species were not (Taylor 1970), and there is much evidence that intense predation is the dominant factor limiting population densities of marine bivalve species and that predation has played a major role in the evolution of the Bivalvia (see reviews by Stanley 1973, 1977). Thus, it is reasonable to suggest that predation, operating through its impact on population densities, has caused average rate of extinction to be strikingly higher within nonsiphonate than siphonate taxa."

Look at that: Snails and clams are animals. In context, he's talking about extinction rates over millions of years, and on the bottom of the sea, so no human intervention.

Predators increase the risk of catastrophic extinction of prey populations.
Schoener TW, Spiller DA, Losos JB.
Nature. 2001 Jul 12;412(6843):183-6.

A lighter read about lizards, though not as strong against your objections as the one above. To study predation, they looked at a bunch of little islands with little lizards. They decided to put some big predatory lizards on half of them, with the other half serving as control. "Doesn't count, humans introduced them!" you say, but in fact one of the islands ended being naturally colonized by the big lizards right before the experiment, and it went right in with their data. The result: the big lizards ate half the little lizards, and then there was a hurricane. With just this pressure, the little lizard populations on the control islands recovered, but little lizard populations on 4 of the 6 islands with big lizards went extinct as big lizards ate all the little lizards. (On the other 2 it looks like the hurricane killed all the big lizards, and admittedly on one of the 4 islands it looks like the hurricane killed all the lizards of both types.) So this did involve an additional pressure of the hurricane and local, rather than global, extinctions of very small populations, but I found it interesting as something people observed closely and also the fact that people are running evolutionary experiments by introducing these big lizards. (Yet the natural introduction of the big lizards on one island shows that humans aren't necessary.)

The Scientific Literature is way behind on getting rid of copyright and I don't need to piss off anyone legally by putting up these articles, but I'll certainly e-mail them if you'd like. I put a little effort into finding an article whose main point was that predation caused extinction, but when that chain of references kept putting me back in the 1940s, I decided it's getting close bedtime.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 10:01 PM on February 11, 2008


Thank you very much for this, TheOnlyCoolTim - those sources give me an excellent start. Please do feel free to send them via MeFi mail... do you mind if I follow up via the same after I've read them?

Trust me, I'm no creationist. I have no problem with (for lack of a better term) proof by elimination: Having result a and controlling for causes x and y, the most likely cause is z. I'm just really wary when people say "Of course it happened!" without evidence, even if their argument is logical... kind of like saying "Bush lied!" when the standards for a lie (knowingly telling a falsehood) are very high. It's tempting and even logical to make such a claim, but that doesn't make it right.

Thank you once again for your effort to enlighten me - I really appreciate it.
posted by Bora Horza Gobuchul at 11:42 AM on February 12, 2008


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