Adventures in making and raising our test-tube babies

Wednesday, April 30, 2008


I like jellyfish a lot.

I started thinking about them because I heard a snippet of a Jimmy Buffet song this morning:

"I'd like to be a jellyfish, Cause jellyfish don't pay rent, ...
They're just simple protoplasm,Clear as cellophane,
They ride the winds of fortune, Life without a brain."

They're also very beautiful, and they have always inspired me in a visual, artistic sense. I fell in love with them in the "Fatal Beauties" exhibit in the New Orleans Acquarium a decade ago, when I saw a million of them, big and little, translucent white, floating around and trailing wisps of themselves like so many Ginger Rogers dresses. They were backlit in the exhibit, and glowed an ethereal light. I always wanted to make a beautiful jellyfish dress.

So as I thought about what it would be like to be a jellyfish, I naturally wondered about their reproduction. I Google-searched the question and found a very detailed account of how it works, on a site called Animal Corner. It was so outlandish and complicated that it reminded me of IVF. It involves the male and female jellyfish's releasing their eggs and sperm into the sea independently. Those elements then find each other -- without the parents' having to touch -- and after a very long process, the baby jellyfish form. See the diagram, and know that the diagram will not enlighten you one bit.

Not having a brain probably keeps the animals from having to worry about whether their eggs and sperm will be successful. But it probably also keeps them from recognizing and even naming their offspring, much less becoming attached to them.

And so after much thought, I guess I'm glad I'm not a jellyfish, but maybe I'd like to vacation as one. If I were on vacation as a jellyfish, I think I'd prefer to go to the beach rather than the mountains. But that's another blog entry.

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