Monday, July 24, 2006

Animal of the Week July 24, 2006 -- Ginormous Jellyfish of Japan


A couple of months ago, the humble mayfly was AOTW, after a couple of days of mass hatchings and dyings the insects have been known to clogg up cooling-water intake pipes of nuclear power plants. Well, now other invertebrates are getting in on the anti-nuclear act, Chubu Electric had to reduce production at the Hamaoka power plant to 60% when not enough cooling seawater could be sucked up due to the pipes being blocked by this week's animal Stomolophus nomurai (Nomura's jellyfish, echizen kurage). Whatever next, CND centipedes?

These giant jellyfish have been appearing in unusually large numbers around the west coast of Japan for the past few years. As densities have exceeded 100 times the normal levels, fishermen in the Sea of Japan trying to catch anchovies, shrimp, and the like have been thwarted by the jellyfish, the weight of which would break their nets. If they did manage to haul a net aboard intact it would be filled with either a lump of jellyfish or fish so slimed up and poisoned that they could not be sold.

The danger posed by the jellyfish is probably quite minor—nuclear power companies are used to having to clear typhoon debris, swarms of shrimp, or the occasional dolphin from their cooling pipes. Although the 2 m wide, 200 kg jellies can sting, their poison is only very rarely fatal to human beings.

However, what should happen if the jellyfish make it to the nuclear source?! As a child, I remember seeing in the news a story about a giant radioactive moth attacking Japan, they had to get this dinosaur type thing to sort that out.

Should you be stung by a jellyfish this anchovy season, remember that weeing on the sting as recommended by the school of received wisdom is not a good idea, it'll cause more poison to be released. Ideally apply a weak solution of vinegar, if no vinegar is available, use bicarbonate of soda, if this is unavailable, use meat tenderiser (apply for no longer than 10 minutes). If you are not in a kitchen when stung, wash with sea water (that you have first carefully inspected for jellyfish).

Revisit some of the old Animals of the Week at I don't like blogs, but what can you do?


Ps, if anyone knows any cheap accomodation with good access to South Kensington in London that will be available from the September 22-ish, give me a shout.


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