Raising Baby Jellyfish: Behind the Scenes In the Jellyfish Nursery

The anticipation is building around Newport Aquarium’s newest exhibit, The Ring of Fire, set to open March 9, 2018. The exhibit features the Giant Pacific Octopus, Japanese Spider Crabs and Moon Jellyfish. We recently sat down with Mark Dvornak, General Curator at Newport Aquarium, whose team of biologists has been hard at work preparing for the landing of our Moon Jellyfish.

“We are always trying to give our guests the opportunity to see animals from a new perspective, one that promotes conservation,” said Dvornak. “We want our guests to come away with a greater appreciation and understanding of all the animals on exhibit.”

Mark Dvornak

“We are always trying to give our guests the opportunity to see animals from a new perspective, one that promotes conservation,” said Mark Dvornak, General Curator at Newport Aquarium.

Dvornak described a two-pronged approach to developing the new exhibit. Teams of designers, engineers and biologists have been busy constructing the new gallery. At the same time, the biologists are also preparing a Moon Jellyfish nursery, which will be available for viewing on our exclusive behind-the-scenes tour.

“One of the challenges of acquiring jellyfish species for an exhibit is the constant change in numbers. Some years it is can be very difficult to source them,” said Dvornak. “So, in order to remove that unknown risk factor, we wanted to follow a sustainable approach by raising our own jellyfish.”

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We caught up with one of the main biologists in charge of the Moon Jellyfish nursery. Ty Jobson, our Moon Jelly “guru,” helped build the nursery, which consists of specialized tanks called kreisels for the jellyfish.

What is a kreisel?

“A kreisel is a tank specifically designed to hold jellyfish. Jellyfish move with the ocean currents, so the purpose of this design is to simulate that drifting, natural behavior that jellyfish have,” said Jobson.

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The nursery consists of a multistage set-up, featuring the Moon Jellyfish in their five stages of growth: planula, polyp, strobila, ephyra and medusa. Guests will have the chance to explore the Moon Jelly life cycle from larva to adult jellyfish on our exclusive behind-the-scenes tour.

“With the kreisel design, you’re trying to alleviate any edges that the jellyfish might get stuck in and also create that curve that helps water flow in a circular motion so that the jellyfish can drift.”

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Jellyfish “guru,” Ty Jobson, pauses to admire the moon jellyfish. He says they’re “almost alien, like tiny flying saucers.”

“Guests are going to have a rare opportunity to see our Moon Jellyfish through all of their life stages,” said Jobson.  “The amount of space required to display the different life stages is big, that’s why the behind the scenes tour is a great opportunity.”

Guests can see our Moon Jellyfish along with our Giant Pacific Octopus and Japanese Spider Crabs and a variety of other animals from the Ring of Fire on March 9, 2018! Stay tuned for a special edition Takeover Tuesday with Ty Jobson. To learn more, visit us at NewportAquarium.com or call 800-406-3474.

Takeover Tuesday: Meet Aquatic Biologist, Scott Brehob

We’re starting something new on our social media channels, where we’ll feature a “day in the life” of biologists, and exhibits staff. Be sure to follow us on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.

I’m Scott Brehob, Aquatic Biologist at Newport Aquarium, and I am excited to help kick off the first ever #TakeoverTuesday for Newport Aquarium! I started working here the summer the aquarium opened in 1999. One major thing that I love about working here is educating people about all the amazing animals in our oceans, rivers, and lakes of the world. Through my many years working at Newport Aquarium, I have had the joy of doing this in several different facets. From talking to the guest directly on the front line to caring for the animals and making amazing exhibit as an Aquarist. I start my day feeding the nearly two dozen sharks in Shark Central. The coolest thing about this exhibit is we have sharks from all over the world! South Africa, Australia, West Coast United States, East Coast United States.

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Scott Brehob, Aquatic Biologist

When guests come through the aquarium, most people would never guess there are nearly two dozen sharks in Shark Central until they have the rare chance to get to see a feed time for the exhibit.  When the sharks in Shark Central eat, the tank is full of energy as all sharks that were sleeping start swimming around the exhibit getting their share of food. There is so much splashing and swimming, that we do not allow touching of the animals for around 30 minutes after a feed to let the animals calm down.

I use two different styles of feeding techniques in this exhibit to make sure all the animals get the food they need.  I “broadcast feed” shrimp in the exhibit two to three times a week. That is a form of hand feeding, where you scatter/drop the food throughout the water. This wakes up the sharks that were sleeping, and it spreads out all the sharks. At the same time, I use tongs to “target feed” squid to the larger sharks and even some of the smaller ones that I want to get extra food.

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Egg casing from Port Jackson Horn shark, PJ.

This is an egg casing from PJ, our adult Port Jackson horn shark.  These eggs are exactly like a chicken egg, they just look radically different. The fins that run around the egg are one way egg-laying sharks have evolved to make sure that their eggs are not washed up on shore. PJ lays anywhere from one to about 10 eggs most months unfortunately we do not have any males Port Jackson sharks so her eggs will never be fertile but she keeps laying them just like hens do.

Meet our youngest Port Jackson horn shark, Lil Bit (some people call her Sheila).

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This juvenile Port Jackson horn shark hatched at Newport Aquarium.

This juvenile Port Jackson horn shark came to the aquarium as an egg. Thanks to proper care in our Tide Pool exhibit, she hatched about 4 years ago. Now that she is grown up and big enough, she gets to live in Shark Central, our shark touch tank.

This is a striped catshark or pajama (pyjama) shyshark.

Striped catsharks

Striped catsharks, also called pajama/pyjama shysharks swim up to eat squid.

 

When this exhibit space first opened, we originally had another exhibit featuring South African animals.  Several of our staff got the chance to go to South Africa and help collect some of the original animals with the help of Two Oceans Aquarium in South Africa. They brought back a select few specimens, including three native South African striped catsharks for the exhibit. Over the years, the three original catsharks laid eggs, and those eggs hatched here at the Newport Aquarium giving us the eight stripped catsharks that are now in Shark Central. Some of the striped catsharks you will see and touch here are  living in the same exhibit as their parents.