Space-Born Jellyfish Struggle on Earth
2013-10-18 0:00

By RR Helm | Deep Sea News

Jellyfish go to space, say it was ďmeh, kinda suckyĒ

Why send jellies to space? Well, because itís awesome (true for anything in space), but mostly because of little crystals jellies keep in their bodies, and what these crystals can tell us about long-term human space travel.

When a jelly grows, it forms calcium sulfate crystals at the margin of its bell [1]. These crystals are surrounded by a little cell pocket, coated in specialized hairs, and these pockets are equally spaced around the bell. When jellies turn, the crystals roll down with gravity to the bottom of the pocket, moving the cell hairs, which in turn send signals to neurons. In this way, jellies are able to sense up and down. All they need is gravity.

Humans have gravity sensing structures too, and therein lies the crux: in space with no gravity, will these structures grow normally? If humans ever want to travel to deep space, weíll need to be popping out kids while up there. Will these kids develop normal gravity sensing, even after growing up without it?

For jellies at least, things arenít so good. After developing in space, astronaut jellies have a hard life back on Earth. While development of the sensory pockets appears normal, many more jellies had trouble getting around once on the planet, including pulsing and movement abnormalities, compared to their Earth-bound counterparts [2, 3].

Human gravity sensing isnít exactly like that of jellies, but itís close. The human inner ear contains both fluids and small crystals, which tell us not only the angle of our head, but also our forward momentum. Even with these differences, there is enough similarity between the two systems to be cause for concern.


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READ: Dreaming of Mars: How Astronauts Could Hibernate On Long Voyage

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