Wednesday, July 20, 2011


When the Connecticut DEEP* emailed out its regular Long Island Sound water quality summary last week, there was a note with it that said, "Ctenophores were plentiful, clogging the plankton nets at the eastern sound stations."

Those Ctenophores probably were comb jellies. More than once over the years people have emailed me to ask if there are more jellyfish in the Sound than there used to be. I have no idea, of course, nor does anyone else. But I've been reading Thoreau's "Cape Cod" and I was interested to see that thick masses of jellies -- or sun-fish, as he called them sometimes -- were not completely unknown 150-plus years ago either. Here's what he wrote:

The beach was also strewn with beautiful sea-jellies, which the wreckers call Sea-squall, one of the lowest forms of animal life, some white, some wine-colored, and a foot in diameter. ... I did not at first recognize these as the same which I had formerly seen in myriads in Boston Harbor, rising, with a waving motion, to the surface, as if to meet the sun, and discoloring the waters far and wide, so that I seemed to be sailing through a mere sun-fish soup.

*Although the new acronym is reminiscent of the active ingredient in bug repellent, the Connecticut DEP is now the DEEP -- Department of Energy and Environmental Protection.


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