Sunday, November 21, 2004

Dock of the Bay

Sea Nettles May be the Heroes

Sea nettles, the arch-nemesis of Bay swimmers, may play the hero’s role in the Bay’s ecology. Hot on the trail of nettles, Smithsonian scientist Denise Breitburg is turning up clues that these stinging invertebrates may in fact protect baby oysters.

The real villains are the stingless comb jellies, those seemingly lifeless, clear blobs that drift in Chesapeake waters. Comb jellies feast on oyster larvae, as well as on an important food source for finfish including rock: bay anchovy larvae.

Sea nettles, in turn, prey on the comb jelly. But Breitburg maintains that the numbers of these food-web heroes are shrinking.

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