A new wave of excitement is coming to downtown Chattanooga as the Tennessee Aquarium and Hunter Museum of American Art team up to bring “Jellies: Living Art” to Chattanooga in May, 2009. This special exhibit showcases jellyfish, some of the most mysterious creatures on Earth, alongside breathtaking glass sculptures inspired by nature.
This exhibit embodies the spirit of the award-winning, highly rated gallery at the Monterey Bay Aquarium.
Visitors to the Aquarium’s Ocean Journey building will find themselves immersed in a glimmering world of animals and art. Six species of jellyfish will capture the imagination as they pulse in specially designed exhibits beside striking studio glass. The exhibit is designed to illustrate how the jellyfish and the art share common characteristics of color, pattern, movement and rhythm.
In one portion of the gallery, jellyfish displays will be paired with mirrors which will produce a visual feast for the eyes surrounding guests with an endless swarm of moon jellies. In other areas, slowly pulsing sea nettles will dance a watery ballet. Blubber jellies will strike a chord with those who imagine what it’s like to venture to another world - the ocean realm.
“Jellies have this ethereal, other worldly quality to them,” said Jackson Andrews, the Aquarium’s director of husbandry and operations. “That’s the presence we try to create throughout the “Jellies: Living Art” exhibit. These animals will appear to float in space as they do in the ocean and the effect is just mesmerizing.”
These delicate and mysterious creatures of the deep have intrigued people and fueled artistic expression for centuries. Guests will marvel at the way artists, like world-renowned Dale Chihuly, infuse glass with striking colors and patterns while creating works that appear to flow with a graceful motion and rhythm. Works from Chihuly’s “Macchia” series will be on display at the Aquarium along with other stunning works from artists Stephen Powell, Cork Marcheschi and Thomas Spake.
“We have some very interesting works of art to compliment the animal exhibits,” said Mr. Andrews. “I believe Aquarium visitors will be surprised and intrigued by the relationship of art and nature found in our exhibit."
At the nearby Hunter Museum of American Art, Jellies: Living Art will be enhanced and extended by the glass art in the Hunter’s galleries. Among the dazzling array of works will be one of Dale Chihuly’s spectacular chandeliers.
“The Laguna Murano actually fills an entire gallery,” said Rob Kret, director of the Hunter Museum. “There are some 1,400 pieces that make up this chandelier. Visitors will also see a number of Chihuly’s sketches which are not commonly displayed in art museums. They are very expressive, very exuberant and really fun to see.”
This collaborative effort promises to draw visitors to downtown Chattanooga who will be encouraged to relax and enjoy all that the pedestrian-friendly “Scenic-City” has to offer. The Tennessee Aquarium and Hunter Museum are located on the Chattanooga riverfront and linked by a short walking corridor which leads guests through an outdoor sculpture garden and across a unique glass bridge.
“I think Jellies: Living Art represents a great opportunity to capitalize on the assets of an accredited art museum and an accredited aquarium which are located just a short walk apart from one another,” said Mr. Kret. “Cultural institutions such as ours create the opportunity for people to unplug a little bit and enjoy each other’s company while seeing something that they wouldn’t normally see. And I think this exhibit will be a magical surprise for visitors.”
Visitors wishing to complete their Jellies: Living Art experience may choose to purchase discount combination tickets for the Tennessee Aquarium, Hunter Museum and IMAX 3D Theater. “Under the Sea 3D” features stunning images of several jellyfish species as well as playful sea lions, fierce-looking great white sharks and graceful leafy sea dragons.
Species List for Jellies: Living Art
West Coast Sea Nettle
Size: Up to 15 inches in diameter.
Range: Eastern Pacific, Mexico to British Columbia
Wild Diet: This species feeds on small crustaceans, mollusks, fish eggs and larvae, and
An integral part of the oceanic food web
The dusky orange hues of the West Coast sea nettle’s bell pulse continuously against the current. Its maroon tentacles and lacy white oral arms trail 12 to 15 feet behind, stinging and collecting a wide variety of zooplankton. Although they are effective predators, their large size and abundance make this species a valuable food source for many marine animals.
A name from mythology
The name Chrysaora comes from Greek mythology and refers to the son of Poseidon and Medusa. Meaning “golden sword,” it is a warning of the stinging ability of these jellies.
Size: Up to one inch in diameter.
Range: Pacific coast from Santa Barbara through Bering Sea to Russia and Northern
Wild Diet: Umbrella jellies feed on invertebrate eggs and larvae, small crustaceans and
Body size affects survival rates
This beautiful, small jelly looks like a miniature umbrella. Its transparent body and small size make it nearly invisible in the ocean.
A unique eating style
The most conspicuous parts of the umbrella jelly’s body are the four radial canals. The mouth has four frilly lips and extends below the bell margin. When food is snared by this tiny predator, the mouth swings over to “lick” the new meal off the tentacles.
Size: Up to 20 inches in diameter.
Range: Moon jellies can be found worldwide, in temperate and tropical waters.
Wild Diet: Moon jellies prefer to eat small zooplankton including mollusks, crustaceans
and fish eggs.
Pulsing gracefully in search of prey
Moon jellies drift through the ocean like pale, glowing orbs. Moons are typically translucent white but may take on a pink, purple or orange hue depending on their last meal.
A troublesome traveler
Moon jellies can be found in every ocean on Earth, but no one is really certain about their native waters. Moons and other jellies are often accidentally transported from one region to another in the ballast water of large seafaring ships. Once released, these invasive species compete with native animals and add stress to troubled fisheries.
Size: Up to 12 inches in diameter.
Range: Blubber jellies are found in the coastal waters of north and eastern Australia.
Wild Diet: This species of jellyfish feed almost exclusively on small zooplankton.
Protection from ultraviolet radiation
Blubber jellies can range in color from tan to bright blue to deep purple. Their coloration is believed to be a form of sunscreen, and it intensifies when they are exposed to sunlight.
Coming to a market near you
When dried and preserved properly, this species is considered a delicacy in many Asian countries. With its numbers increasing in Australian waters, many fishermen have turned to harvesting blubber jellies for sale to foreign markets.
Size: Up to 12 inches in diameter.
Range: This species can be found in shallow, coastal, tropical waters of the Indo-Pacific
and Hawaii, Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico.
Wild Diet: Most of the upside-down jellyfish’s food is acquired from symbiotic algae
(zooxanthallae) that produce nutrients through photosynthesis.
The buddy system in nature
Unlike most other jellies, this species rests upside down on the sea floor and rarely swims. The brownish hue is the algae that live in the jelly’s tissues. The algae use sunlight to make food, which they share with their jelly host.
Neighborhood in danger
Upside-down jellies are commonly found basking in mangrove swamps and sea grass beds. These habitats are two of the most threatened habitats on Earth. They are easily damaged by human activities such as coastal development.
Size: Up to five inches long.
Range: Sea walnuts are native to western Atlantic coastal waters, including the Gulf of
Mexico. They have been introduced elsewhere.
Wild Diet: Sea walnuts consume small zooplankton including crustaceans, fish eggs and
larvae, and occasionally other comb jellies.
Shimmering with all the colors of the rainbow
Sea walnuts belong to a group of animals known as comb jellies. Comb jellies have no stinging cells but instead use sticky mucous to catch their prey. These animals get their name from rows of paddle-like hairs, called combs. Like tiny prisms, these hairs refract visible light into a pulsing rainbow.
Trouble for the Black Sea
In the 1980s comb jellies were accidentally introduced into the Black Sea, most likely via ship ballast water. Without a natural predator, the comb jellies quickly took over their new home and devastated local anchovy fisheries. Despite the introduction of a natural predator, Beroe (another type of comb jelly), which has helped control the invading sea walnuts, the Black Sea fisheries have yet to recover.
The Artists of “Jellies: Living Art”
b. 1941 Tacoma, Wash.
Dale Chihuly is best known for his large-scale, multipart glass pieces. Originally an interior design and architecture student in the 1960s, Chihuly began studying the art of glassblowing at the University of Wisconsin. He was then admitted to the Rhode Island School of Art, where he eventually established and taught in its glass program. In 1971, Chihuly co-founded the Pilchuck School in Stanwood, Wash.
Chihuly’s “Macchia” series, a large collection of unusually-shaped bowls that the artist says remind him of the deep sea, will be on display with the jellies at the Tennessee Aquarium. Taking note that the colors of stained glass windows look more vibrant with a foggy backdrop, Chihuly uses a layer of white glass to make the colors of his “Macchia” bowls maintain their vibrancy.
The artist’s “Laguna Murano” chandelier, which will be exhibited at the Hunter Museum, takes up approximately 1,500 square feet and is one of Chihuly’s fascinating installation pieces. The chandelier, with its unique presentation of a lagoon swarming with mythical sea creatures and aquatic vegetation, explores the similarities between the line and form of blown glass and natural settings.
Chihuly lost sight in one eye in a car accident and no longer possesses the depth perception necessary to work directly with molten glass. Instead, he conceptualizes the works and leads a team of glass artists to execute his intricate designs.
Chihuly’s work is in the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; the Museum of Modern Art, New York; the Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, D.C.; and the Hunter Museum of American Art, Chattanooga, Tenn., among many others. He lives in Washington State. To learn more about his work, visit www.chihuly.com.
Stephen Rolfe Powell
b. 1951 Birmingham, Ala.
The color in Stephen Rolfe Powell’s glass pieces has been compared to that of watercolor paintings. With a background in ceramics from Louisiana State University, Powell began to experiment with glass in his spare time at various crafts schools and through internships. Inspired by artist Richard Marquis’s work with murrini, a glass substance used to add color, Powell began his work with a focus on color and the manipulation of transparency and opacity.
Powell creates vessels with long, thin necks and very rounded bottoms. Rather than forcing the glass into very specific shapes, Powell allows gravity to morph his pieces. Allowing the glass to stretch itself causes Powell to have a failure rate of about 80 percent. Pieces that actually survive this strenuous stretching process have a retro, tie-dye look. Purples, reds and yellows are dominant his works.
Powell’s work is in the collections of the Huntsville Museum of Art, Huntsville, Ala.; the Hillman Collection, Portland, Ore.; and the Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland, Ohio, among many others. He lives and works in Danville, Ky. To learn more about his work, visit www.stephenrolfepowell.com.
b. 1945 San Mateo, Ca.
Cork Marcheschi, both a visual artist and a musician, states that his work “is about energy, light and humor.” His pieces are brightly colored and glow or light up, commanding attention from viewers. Light bulbs, paint and neon and halogen tubes are just a few of the items that frequently appear in Marcheschi’s works.
Also a proponent of public art, Marcheschi’s public works are found all over the world and in varying climates, from the hot and steamy to the frigid and frozen. These extreme variations in climate provide a challenge for the artist and require him to tailor each of his pieces to the climate of its future home.
Marcheschi’s work is found in the Heitz Collection, Los Angeles; the Taylor Collection, San Francisco; the Morton Newmann Collection, Chicago and the Hunter Museum, among others. To view some of Marcheschi’s pieces, visit www.corkmarcheschi.com.
b. 1973 Chattanooga
Chattanooga artist Thomas Spake never considered a career in visual arts until entering the glassblowing studio at Center College in Danville, Ky. After graduation, Spake became the Glass Artist in Residence at the Appalachian Center for Crafts. He later became the Manager and Head Glassblower for the River Gallery Glass Studio in Chattanooga.
Spake uses glass to explore the similarities between earth, air and sea. His works range from small-scale ornaments to large-scale outdoor sculpture.
Spake’s works can be found in the collections of the Tennessee State Museum, Nashville; the Siskin Foundation, Chattanooga; and Joseph Descosimo and Co. He lives and works in Chattanooga. To view some of Spake’s pieces, visit www.thomasspakestudios.com.
Firm Answers to Frequently Asked Jellyfish Questions
Chattanooga, Tenn. (February 24, 2009) – Tennessee Aquarium senior aquarist Sharyl Crossley works with a lot of oddballs. That’s because her primary duties include caring for creatures that have no eyes, feel like wet Jell-O and can sting you in a micro-second. “I like jellyfish because they are so weird,” Crossley says with a smile. “They’re very alien and I think that intrigues most people. So, I get a lot of really good questions about jellyfish.”
Want to know more about these free-flowing life forms from the deep? Read on to get Crossley’s jammin’ good answers to frequently asked questions about jellies.
What are jellies?
Jellyfish are animals. Chemically, jellies are composed of at least 95 percent water with some proteins and salts making up the other 5 percent of their bodies. True jellyfish belong to the Phylum Cnidaria along with corals and sea anemones. Comb jellies (Phylum Ctenophora) are not “true” jellyfish because they lack those really important stinging cells. Other jelly-like critters include a variety of swimming mollusks (sea butterflies and sea elephants) and pelagic tunicates (salps, doliolids, and pyrosomes). The characteristic that unites all these unrelated animals is their delicate gelatinous tissue.
Are there jellies in Tennessee?
Yes, there are jellyfish in Tennessee. The freshwater or peach blossom jellyfish, Craspedacusta sowerbii, is unlike other jellies because this is the only species that can be found in freshwater rivers, lakes and ponds. Peach blossom jellyfish are not native to the Tennessee River, but have been spotted in the state’s waterways on many occasions. It has also been found in Canada, throughout Europe, Asia, Australia, Malaysia, Central America, and even Iraq! If you are lucky enough to encounter this species of jellyfish, don’t worry too much. This jellyfish species is quite small and has no noticeable sting.
What do jellies feel like?
This may sound a little obvious, but they feel like wet jello. Some feel thicker or tougher than others, but all feel quite slimy.
Are any of the jellies at the Tennessee Aquarium deadly?
None of the jellies at the Tennessee Aquarium are considered deadly. Although many species of jellyfish can have irritating mild to moderately painful stings, very few are actually considered deadly.
Where do jellies come from?
Jellies can be found in just about every marine habitat and every ocean. Jellies live in estuaries, bays, harbors, and the open ocean. Some are even in the deepest ocean basins.
They're found from the warm waters near the Equator to the frigid waters of the arctic and antarctic. Some single species of jellies, like the moon jellyfish, can be found all over the world.
How do jellies swim?
Jellyfish mostly drift with the currents, but they can swim to move short distances or redirect themselves. By contracting muscles in their bell, water is forced out and the jelly is propelled in the opposite direction. The muscles then relax and the bell gently springs back into its “open” position. This pulsing motion closely resembles an umbrella being closed and opened. At the cellular level, jellyfish muscles look almost identical to human muscles, but their “muscles” are only one-cell thick!
What’s the largest jellyfish?
The lion’s mane jellyfish (Cyanea capilata) is the largest jellyfish species. The largest specimens of this giant can attain a bell diameter of 8 ft, a weight of 330 lb and can possess tentacles as long as 120 ft or more.
What’s the smallest jellyfish?
The smallest jellyfish species is thought to be the Irukandji jellyfish (Carukia barnesi). Its bell rarely exceeds 2mm when fully grown and it is considered to be one of the deadliest jellies in the world.
How long do jellies live?
In the wild, jellyfish medusas typically live only for about one season, around 5-8 months. That’s just long enough to eat a lot, grow big and reproduce. New medusas typically appear the next year to start the cycle all over again.
At the Tennessee Aquarium, some of the large jellies like the moon jellyfish and the sea nettles can live up to 2 years. Some of the smaller species, like umbrella jellyfish and blubber jellyfish, have a shorter life expectancy of only 6-8 months.
Where are their eyes, mouth, and stomach?
Most jellyfish don’t have eyes. They rely on a very basic nervous system and small sensory structures called rhopalia, located around the edge of the bell. Within the rhopalia may be special structures to sense light (ocelli) or gravity (statoliths). When it comes to jelly vision, box jellies have the best sensory cells. They have complex ocelli that closely resemble the image-forming eye of squid and vertebrates. These jellies have good enough “eye-sight” to avoid large objects and distinguish between potential prey and non-prey.
What do jellies eat?
Most jellies feed on some type of zooplankton, small animals that drift with ocean
currents. Some even eat other jellies. The jellies with the most potent stings usually dine on bigger food like whole fish or prawn. At the Tennessee Aquarium, the jellies’ diets are a little bit different. Live natural plankton is not available to us because we are not located near an ocean. Every morning newly hatched brine shrimp (Artemia) are harvested to be fed to the jellies. These small crustaceans, popularly known as sea monkeys, make up the basis of our jelly diets. Once hatched, the brine shrimp are fed vitamin-rich supplements to make them more nutritious for the jellies. Other foods, including – but not limited to - frozen blood worms or mysis shrimp, chopped moon jellyfish, fish eggs and rotifers are added to the diets of different jellyfish in order to maximize the nutritional variety offered.
How do jellies eat?
Typical jellyfish have stinging tentacles that trail from the edge of their bell. As jellies float through the ocean they use these tentacles to snag their prey. After the food is caught and immobilized by the stinging cells, it can be passed to the mouth of the jellyfish. The mouth is located in the very center of the underside of the bell. Once in the mouth, the food is digested in the stomach (or stomachs) of the jellyfish. Because of their mostly transparent bodies it’s easy to see what a jellyfish has recently eaten.
Where is the part that stings you?
The same tentacles that jellies use to catch food are the parts that can sting you. These tentacles carry the highest concentration of stinging cells in the jellyfish body. On west coast sea nettles, these tentacles are long and brown in color, but on moon jellyfish they are wispy, white, and hair-like. The oral arms, the thicker frilly appendages under the bell, are also armed with venomous stinging cells. These stinging cells aren’t there just to terrorize beachgoers, they are essential to the jellyfish’s survival and its ability to capture food. The microscopic stinging cells, or nematocysts, look like tiny harpoons coiled up within a capsule. When the jellyfish brushes against something like plankton or a swimmer’s leg, the nematocyst capsule pops open and the tiny venom-laden harpoon is propelled into its target (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6zJiBc_N1Zk). The nematocysts are typically organized in batteries causing hundreds or thousands to be discharged simultaneously. This harpoon discharge is one of the fastest biological processes and takes only a few microseconds (1 sec = 1,000,000 microseconds) from start to finish.
Have you ever been stung?
I have been stung before while working with jellies. I do what I can to avoid it, but I spend almost eight hours everyday working with different species of jellyfish, so a sting once in a while is inevitable. Fortunately, the jellies at the Tennessee Aquarium do not have very painful stings. I normally get itchy bumps, similar to mosquito bites, on the sensitive skin between my fingers or on my inner forearm. Calloused skin, like that on the palm of the hand, is too thick for most stinging cells to penetrate – so I never get stings on the palms of my hands. (More)
It’s also important to remember that jellies have very little control over what or who they sting. The trigger for their nematocyst is involuntary, and relies strictly on specific chemical and mechanical cues to fire.
Are there any jellyfish that don’t sting?
All true jellyfish have stinging cells and therefore “sting.” However, not all true jellyfish have stinging cells and venom that are strong enough to affect humans. Our skin is our first defense against jellyfish stings. If the stinging cells, nematocysts, are not large enough to penetrate this barrier, then nothing happens and we don’t feel like we have been stung.
There are lots of gelatinous creatures in the ocean and many of them are sometime referred to as ‘jellies’, even though they are not true jellyfish. Good examples of these are the comb jellies, such as the sea walnut, Mnemiopsis leidyi. Comb jellies look like a jellyfish, move and act just like a jellyfish, but are actually Ctenophores. Ctenophores use sticky mucous, not stinging cells, to catch their prey.
If you get stung by a jellyfish at the beach – what should you do?
Before you head into the ocean, learn about what species you might encounter at the particular beach you are visiting and check the surf reports for jellyfish warnings. This will help you make an informed decision about getting in the water.
Most jelly stings are minor. But if you feel pain after a close encounter with a jelly, then you’ve been injected with venom from thousands of tiny nematocysts. Because they can still function even when detached, it’s important to remove any tentacle pieces that may be stuck to the skin as soon as possible. It is best to pluck them off or rinse them away with seawater. Rubbing or rinsing with freshwater will cause more stinging cells to fire and increase your pain. Mild to moderate stings may cause a burn-like, red rash with pain, itching and raised bumps on the skin. Symptoms will usually disappear within about a day without any treatment. Ice packs may help reduce pain if applied for a few minutes to the sting site. Stronger stinging jellyfish, such as from the Portuguese man-of-war, will pack a bigger punch. Pain can be severe and last for several hours accompanied by welts and lesions lasting several days. After such an unpleasant encounter, rinse with seawater, apply vinegar, meat tenderizer, or sodium bicarbonate to help disable any remaining nematocysts. Ice packs and application of topical analgesic creams can also help soothe a sting. Immediate medical attention is required in cases of severe reactions. A severe reaction to the toxins may include anaphylactic shock, extreme pain, respiratory and cardiac distress. Fortunately, this level of sting is rare in the waters that surround the United States.
How do jellies reproduce?
Jellies have a very complex life cycle which includes four phases. First, is the medusa phase. When most people think of ‘jellies’, they picture the medusa phase. This is a free swimming phase that is responsible for the sexual reproduction of the species. Each individual medusa is male or female, and during spawning will release gametes, sperm and eggs, into the water. When a jellyfish egg is fertilized, it will develop into the second phase, known as a planula (plan-you-lah). The microscopic planula will swim for about 48 hours, settle onto a hard surface, and develop into a polyp. Polyps are the asexual phase of the life cycle and closely resemble a tiny anemone. They can reproduce in two distinct ways, through budding and through strobilation. During budding, an offspring grows from a body part of a parent polyp. A single polyp can give rise to an entire colony of polyps by budding. During strobilation, the top portion of the polyp divides into segments. Each segment will eventually break away from the polyp and become free swimming. This phase, known as ephyra, will eat and grow and eventually undergo a metamorphosis into a medusa. Not all jellies stick closely to this plan though. For example, small hydromedusas, like the umbrella jelly, skip the ephyra phase all together.