Sunday, January 1, 2012

Shedd Aquarium Jellies 1/2 - Start of 365 days of posting!

Well, it's January 1st.  Which means my official plan (I don't want to call it a resolution, as that's sure to jinx it) to post at least three pictures - old or new - every day now commences!

So, as I mentioned, I went to the Shedd this week.  I don't think I've ever seen that place so truly, insanely busy.  I fit into a category that gets free admission and, while I still do get in free, they've changed just about every other rule that goes with that, and one of those was that we no longer use the will-call line.  Now, that line was long enough.  I've been through the will-call line on busy days before, but while it may have queued around a few ropes inside, it never spilled out the door. Yesterday it was out the door and all the way down the steps.  And if you've seen the Shedd, you know, those are some serious front steps.

Yesterday I got shuttled into the regular line, which not only queued around inside and spilled out the door and down the stairs; when I got in it, it went about two blocks down the plaza.  By the time I got to the top of the stairs, it wrapped half-way around the Field Museum.

That's a ridiculous line of people!

I'm not sure if they ever had to cut off the line to avoid issues with the fire marshal (unlike places like the zoo, this is one, self-contained building, so it has fire code maximum capacities) but even when I left at 5:00 people were still queued up down the steps and a block or so back.  (They were staying open until 9:00, but still...)

Now, that said, the lines inside weren't completely unbearable.  Once I got in, I be-bopped straight for the Jellies exhibit downstairs.  I hardly had the place on my own, but there were few enough people that if I was patient I was able to set up my tripod in a few different places to get better shots.  Later in the day, there was a long queue through the ropes just to get in, so I totally called that one right on the timing.

So!  The first set of shots?  The Jellies, of course!  Well, half of the jelly shots I pulled.  I still don't like putting more than ten shots in a post, so I'm going to need two to cover this.

Now, I have to say, as someone who has taught grade school science, including the classification and characteristics of animals, it can be really, really hard not to correct adults at a place like this who, to put it delicately, were either never taught their classification and characteristics of animals or who have forgotten what they did learn all those years ago.

More than once I heard some parent say to their child, "Look!  That jellyfish is watching you!"  And I just wanted to go, "Okay, clearly you missed the lesson that explains that jellies, well for one, aren't even fish. If you look around the exhibit, they aren't even once called jellyfish, because places like the Shedd are starting to be more accurate in their public descriptions of things.  And for two, one of the defining characteristics of these very, very simple animals is that they don't have brains, bones or blood.  Without a brain they couldn't process the images from sensory organs like eyes.  Oh, by the way, they don't have eyes either."  But I didn't, I just kept on shooting.

You know what sea jellies do have?


Baby Moon Jellies  (Sounds like either a
candy or a new brand of shoes.)
At the Shedd they're in what looks like a very wet tumble dryer.  A big round tank with a forced water circulation that sends them around in slow circles.  You can see in this shot the very, very tiny ones and the ones that are almost big enough to go in the "big kids" tank.

Long Slender Threads

This one is a Japanese Sea Nettle.  If you look at the top of the shot you can see that there are tentacles that become thread-thin, transparent and stretch out for yards (I know, scale is hard to tell in these shots) behind the more visible body.  It explains how so many people get stung without ever realizing there was a jelly near by.

Moons Floating on Earth

These are Moon Jellies.  One really, really big one and one a little closer to the average size.  Some of the jellies actually propel themselves around their enclosures or rest on the bottom.  These particular jellies seem to just like floating on the currents, not trying very hard to move in a particular direction or caring how many of their neighbors they bump into.

Just Resting on the Bottom

These are the Spotted Lagoon Jellies.  They're my favorites.  Both their shape and the display they Shedd gave them gives them this *very* extra-terrestrial appearance.  Unfortunately they were all pretty lazy while I was there, and they mostly just hung out on the bottom.
Downward Facing Jelly

This guy finally decided to poke around a little.  He was jetting around which made it hard to shoot him, even though the display was all black - the background and the rocks on the bottom - and well lit, because he was moving pretty quickly.
Maintaining Form

I found it interesting that even when they lay on the bottom, they kept their bodies inflated and round.  They don't have bones, so if they were just laying around, they should flatten at least some.  They have to be making a 'conscious' decision to remain round and puffy.

Yolk's on You

These are the sort of abstract shape that you just find yourself making a Rorschach type picture out of.  Personally I see someone in a Spanish dancer's skirt and big, wide brimmed hat.  But it's actually an Egg-yolk Jelly.  For sort of obvious reasons. :)

Okay, the rest of the Jellies tomorrow. :)

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