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Marine Science


Jellyfish form spectacular blooms throughout the world's oceans. Jellyfish body plans are characterised by high water and low carbon contents which enables them to grow much larger than non-gelatinous animals of equivalent carbon content and to deviate from non-gelatinous pelagic animals when incorporated into allometric relationships. Jellyfish have, however, been argued to conform to allometric relationships when carbon content is used as the metric for comparison. Here we test the hypothesis that differences in allometric relationships for several key functional parameters remain for jellyfish even after their body sizes are scaled to their carbon content. Data on carbon and nitrogen contents, rates of respiration, excretion, growth, longevity and swimming velocity of jellyfish and other pelagic animals were assembled. Allometric relationships between each variable and the equivalent spherical diameters of jellyfish and other pelagic animals were compared before and after sizes of jellyfish were standardised for their carbon content. Before standardisation, the slopes of the allometric relationships for respiration, excretion and growth were the same for jellyfish and other pelagic taxa but the intercepts differed. After standardisation, slopes and intercepts for respiration were similar but excretion rates of jellyfish were 10x slower, and growth rates 2x faster than those of other pelagic animals. Longevity of jellyfish was independent of size. The slope of the allometric relationship of swimming velocity of jellyfish differed from that of other pelagic animals but because they are larger jellyfish operate at Reynolds numbers approximately 10x greater than those of other pelagic animals of comparable carbon content. We conclude that low carbon and high water contents alone do not explain the differences in the intercepts or slopes of the allometric relationships of jellyfish and other pelagic animals and that the evolutionary longevity of jellyfish and their propensity to form blooms is facilitated by their unique body plans.

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