Tonight with Lester Podcast

#BeautifulNews


Guest : Krish Lewis

Did you know there are large, unexplained swarms of jellyfish along South Africa’s
coastlines? Most beachgoers know little about these sea creatures other than their
ability to sting. Their misunderstood nature makes it difficult to appreciate and protect
them. The rich diversity of jellies swimming around remain largely unacknowledged
and unstudied. Krish Lewis, known as the “jelly guy”, is on a mission to discover more.
The marine biologist works at the Two Oceans Aquarium, where the jellyfish exhibit is
his focus. Lewis cares for a range of species, including the rare pink meanie jellyfish,
named for its colouring and love for eating other jellyfish. But his favourite is the
Benguela compass jelly, which is endemic to South Africa. Since 1997, scientists have
been trying to grow the species through all life stages in labs. Lewis became the first to
close the life cycle – a huge feat in cnidology.
Since 2012, he has been growing jellyfish from polyps – a stalk that develops from
fertilised eggs, then attaches to coastal reefs and pops off baby jellies. Lewis notes that
the most rewarding part of his job is watching them change physically. South Africa is
home to 20 species of ‘true’ jellyfish, which make up 10% of the global total. Many of
these remain misclassified. “In order to conserve and understand them, we need to find
out what we have,” Lewis says.
By studying these life forms, we can ensure a balanced ecosystem. The bubble-like
organisms support a large diversity of underwater fauna and flora, which we’re
extremely lucky to have. Dedicated aquarists such as Lewis are revealing their value
and uncovering the mysteries of jellyfish.

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