Cabrillo Marine Aquarium

Featured Research

In a Galaxy (not so) Far, Far Away

On a quick glance, this photo could pass for a shot of outer space, but itís actually an extreme close-up of a mini-galaxy contained within a crystal jelly (Aequorea victoria) raised in the Aquatic Nursery.

"What you see in the photo is the translucent bell rimmed by the green bioluminescent dots where green fluorescent protein glows when the animal is stimulated," explained Kiersten Darrow, CMA's Research Curator. "By shining a UV light on the jelly, the green fluorescent protein has a fluorescent reaction to the light, creating a similar effect to how actual bioluminescence looks in the wild."

Many different types of jellies use bioluminescent capabilities (an animal's ability to produce light), but the how and why is not well understood and itís not clear what biological function bioluminescence serves. What's unique about crystal jellies is their color; most bioluminescent animals lack the green fluorescent protein and emit a blue light instead.

The bell of a full-grown crystal jelly can reach up to eight centimeters in diameter, but the bell of the crystal jelly in the photo is 1.5 centimeters. In the wild, crystal jellies live about six months and in captivity they can live up to two years. There are many unanswered questions about how to best raise crystal jellies in captivity. The jelly in the photo successfully reached the adult medusa stage with the help of several high school students doing research projects in the Aquatic Nursery and additional help from CMA part-time research staff.

You can experience a crystal jellyís green glow by visiting CMA's Exhibit Hall. In the Open Ocean habitat section, there are several crystal jellies on display in a tank next to the Jelly Lab. By pressing a button under the display, a UV light shines on the crystal jellies causing the green fluorescent protein to react bringing a piece of ocean magic to light.

Photo credit: Ben Higgins took this photo using Nikon camera equipment donated by Jeff Neu.


Facebook icon  Linkedin icon  Twitter icon 

Featured Research Archive

          8/29/2023 Trekking the Tide Pools: What You Need to Know Before You Go (Featured)
          1/4/2023 Young Scientist Researches Algae
          6/20/2014 Student Researchers Receive Top Awards
          7/23/2013 Student Researcher Eric Dean builds a mudflat from scratch
          12/17/2012 Student Researcher Maddy Uetrecht dives into moon jelly development
          8/23/2012 Student Researcher Jacob Partida Tracks Fishy Movements
          5/21/2012 Student Researcher Madaly Alcala Investigates the Man-Made Salt Marsh
          1/19/2012 In a Galaxy (not so) Far, Far Away
          8/24/2011 Student Researcher Julian Kimura Shines a Light on Copepods
          6/9/2010 What a Complicated Lifecycle
          8/17/2009 Does pressure affect lobster embryonic growth?
          12/4/2008 Kristin McCully