...A diverse group of thousands of species of gooey, saclike invertebrates found throughout the world, the jellyfish are preposterously ancient, dating back 600 million to 700 million years or longer. That’s roughly twice as old as the earliest bony fish and insects, three times the age of the first dinosaurs.
...“They’re living lava lamps,” said Jack Cover, general curator of the aquarium. And they’re so mesmerizing to visitors that, Mr. Allen said, “the jellies are right up there in popularity next to the dolphins.” Which is a good thing, considering that the infrastructure needed to keep the tender-fleshed sylphs hale and whole can cost millions. “Keeping jellyfish is a fine art,” said Vicky Poole, the exhibit manager. “It’s a little like maintaining phlegm.”
...All jellies are carnivorous, feeding on plankton, crustaceans, fish eggs, small fish and other jellyfish, ingesting and voiding through the same convenient hole in the middle of the bell. Jellies do not actively hunt but instead use their tentacles as drift nets. Should a fish brush against the often invisible extensions, the pressure prompts the tentacles’ stinging cells to release tiny harpoons packed with neurotoxins. In the most venomous jellyfish, the toxins are designed to work quickly and unequivocally, to forfend any damage to the predator’s delicate tissue.
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