Monday, June 13, 2011

A Simple Explanation of Jellyfish

Box Jellyfish photo and related article posted at SciNewsBlog
The New York Times ran an article last Tuesday (June 7, 2011) on jellyfish entitled, "So Much More Than Plasma and Poison." Here's a quote from that article:

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.
“Jellyfish are the most ancient multiorgan animal on earth,” said David J. Albert, a jellyfish expert at the Roscoe Bay Marine Biological Laboratory in Vancouver, British Columbia.

The New York Times article goes on to cite several recent studies of jellyfish that disprove old assumptions. Contrary to earlier belief, jellyfish are not brainless, thoughtless lumps of protoplasm. Box jellyfish, for example, have eyes very much like human eyes, mounted on gyroscopic stalks that allow them to stare upward and out of the water for active shoreline navigation. Another study of jellyfish concludes that, although their neurons are distributed diffusely and not concentrated into a brain, jellyfish do nevertheless perform complex behaviors well beyond simple reflex. Please take a look at the nine-picture slideshow that accompanies the New York Times article by clicking on this NYT link, The Complexity of Jellyfish. Believe me, it's worth the look!

Here's what comes to my mind when I look at these photos of jellyfish--swimming toroids!

Here; watch the following short youtube video of bioluminescent jellyfish and see swimming, glowing toroids for yourself. It's quite beautiful.

Now here's the absurdly Simple Explanation of what we are seeing:

Jellyfish are the purest expression of the manifested toroidal pattern at the multi-organed animal level.

It's as if the first pattern that our ancient governing units of consciousness attempted was the pattern most familiar to them: the toroid.
The toroidal pattern seems to have been a very good choice; jellyfish have survived for at least 600 million years and passed unscathed through five global waves of mass extinction. Jellyfish were populating the planet well before vegetation evolved on land! According to the NYT article, jellyfish are twice as old as bony fish and insects, and three times older than the earliest dinosaurs. With that much jellyfish time, chances are good that there have been an enormous number of jellyfish UCs.

There is even one type of jellyfish, turritopsis nutricula, that appears to be immortal. Through a process called transdifferentiation, this creature is able to cycle from polyp to adult to aged and back to polyp again in an unending cycle of regeneration.
Turritopsis nutricula, the immortal jellyfish
Simple Explanation's diagram of memes and karma encycling an individual's UC.

Since reading about jellyfish and seeing these pictures of them, I've been doing a little jellyfish qigong in the morning that you may like to try:

Standing comfortably, arms relaxed at sides, chin down, eyes closed. Breathing in slowly, imagining myself a jellyfish breathing in ocean water and bouying up, floating effortlessly in the sea. Feeling light, swaying in the currents.  Then exhale the air, exhale the ocean water, coasting along in the current of sea, relaxing. Resting lightly, the legs and arms, the tentacles,hanging loose.  Repeat.



  1. Jellyfish are a lot like hot air balloons as far as being able to steer--they both benefit from currents that enhance movement and then in the direction of the current. If there is only a weak self propulsion system as compared to the prevailing current, there is no benefit to differentiated design that favors movement in any particular direction. If the jellyfish or balloon has an equal likelihood of movement in any direction at any moment, a curved face toward that direction reduces resistance and enhances any propulsion effect. Since the jellyfish has a relatively weak self propulsion system, the balloon analogy would be more fitting if it had the propulsion of a blimp.
    Unless there is a benefit for a life form to develop preferentially along an axis, then they exist as simple curved shapes like bacteria, spores, choanoflagellates, sea urchins, the M1 protein, and others. The toroid has curved sides but if it were to be self-propelled, it would move best laterally along its x axis in an environment that provides resistance to motion. While the toroid is not the most efficient design for a body in self-propulsion, it is superior to most. That is possibly the reason there are lifeforms that you have cited that follow the toroidal shape.

  2. Hi Cyd,

    Breaststroke swimming looks like toroidal mouvement of our body in water.

    Also have a look at this website :
    Lots of ideas and technologies revolving around toroidal patterns. I just saw the pictures as I don't understand all the math.