SITE VISIT: Jellyfish Junction

See allHide authors and affiliations

Science  25 Aug 2000:
Vol. 289, Issue 5483, pp. 1251
DOI: 10.1126/science.289.5483.1251d

Most people think of jellyfish and their kin mainly as a stinging hazard at the beach. But to biologists, their simple construction and behavior make these baglike creatures a boon for studying the evolution of basic molecular processes. Indeed, interest is strong enough that during the 5 years biologist Rob Steele has run the Cnidaria (pronounced “nydaria”) WWW Server, he has gotten inquiries about jellyfish, corals, and other stinging marine organisms from both experts and the simply curious. A researcher for a mystery writer even asked how long it would take one kind of poisonous jelly to kill a person.

Steele, who works at the University of California, Irvine, has stocked the site with a mix of onsite documents and links. One leads to a sister site at Yale on hydrozoa, a widely studied group of cnidaria that includes Hydra and the Portuguese man o' war. Other offerings range from genetic information and research methods, to pretty cnidarian photos and a discussion forum. Users can look up the genes involved in intercellular signal transduction and even tips on storing cnidaria in ethanol for DNA analysis. Moving to topics beyond the lab, one newsgroup posting discusses how a Korean power plant might eliminate jellyfish blooms near its cooling water intake pipes. The site's biggest payoff, says Steele, is that it has helped make a relatively small group of researchers spread over the world “more accessible as a community.”

Navigate This Article