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How Jellyfish Break Down Oil After a Spill?

How Jellyfish Break Down Oil

The Jellyfish is already considered the most energy-efficient swimmers in deep waters. They capture water into their bells and squeeze them to eject that water swiftly to move forward. Their tiny movements can create underwater waves or currents big enough to move large volumes of water. Some scientists claim that this turbulence could be enough for a Jellyfish to break down oil after a spill.

The Deepwater Horizon oil spill tragedy in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010 was one of the biggest oil discharge tragedies. It affected almost 8000+ marine animals and many other sea birds. Despite all of this, the Jellyfish in the affected areas seemed to have been less affected due to their ability to break down oil spills with their mucus and turbulence.

Yes, the Jellyfish produce mucus under stress which breaks down oil. The Mucus inside the Jellyfish contains plenty of nitrogen. Moreover, the Jellyfish mucus also contains oil-degrading bacteria, the direct agent for consuming the oil. Both the nitrogen and bacteria combine to make the oil degradation process faster.

However, dispersants inside the ocean can damage Jellyfish even if both of them combined could clear the oil. Many Jellyfish changed color or got irregular bell shape, and many even died.

Scientists were intrigued by the Jellyfish’s ability to absorb the oil and kill the PAH pollutants. Many of them are now working on releasing an army of synthetic organisms that would mimic Jellyfish in eliminating such toxins in the water in the future before they could harm. Synthetic biology is close to achieving its goal.

The concept to create a multicellular structure is to detect toxins and remove them. These organisms would be non-invasive, biodegradable, and non-reproductive. They might even add a self-destruct switch inside to finish these synthetic jellies once their job is done.

The Scientists are optimistic that once they replicate the Jellyfish way, they could use the technology on a widespread scale and save many marine animals from oil toxins.


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