Recently, as in a full week ago, I went on a trip with my family to the Henry Doorly Zoo. We were, initially, planning on a trip to see my grandparents out of state, but that was canceled on the grounds that in a week we will be leaving for a VERY expensive trip to New York City for a while and as such my parents are monitoring their funds very carefully. I was upset about this cancellation because I had been informed by one of my friends who had visited the zoo that they had added cuttlefish. For the record, cuttlefish are my favorite animal. I’ve probably already said that but it’s worth saying again, I like them just that much.
A compromise was made. Instead of a trip super-far out of state, we just went to the zoo. Which meant I got to work for most of last week as well – probably a good thing, I could always use more money. Anyhow, we went to the zoo (after staying the night in a hotel and watching Battlebots) and the very first thing we went to was the aquarium. We pretty much blitzed through most of the beginning stuff – there’s only so many fish you can look at before the “normal” ones start to blend together. As such, the only ones we really spent time at were the penguins and the big shark tunnel – you know the one, where you walk through a glass tunnel surrounded by sharks, big grouper-type fish, sea turtles and stingrays.
At that point we hit the jellyfish exhibit. Now, I’ve always been a big jellyfish nerd. My username, Flagmouth (Flagmauth for my Youtube channel) is derived from the order Semaeostomeae, a group of jellyfish that tend to be the biggest and most impressive-looking ones. So when I got to see my first real jellyfish exhibit (which is to say it wasn’t a bunch of moon-jellies that looked like plastic bags with four-leaf-clover tattoos) at Shedd Aquarium in Chicago, I was excited. I saw a sign saying that they had lion’s mane jellyfish. My inner nerd started rattling off statistics faster than most auctioneers: “Cool, those things can be ten feet wide and a hundred feet long I can’t wait – oh.”
Yeah, they can be that big but Shedd’s jellyfish were only about four inches in diameter, if I’m being generous. I was, understandably, disappointed.
Going to Henry Doorly’s aquarium I expected this same size difference – I went there last year too, on a trip to my grandparents’ place. But this time I had a question. I looked at the tank for purple-striped jellyfish (labeled as purple-stripe sea nettles but that’s neither here nor there) and noticed that there were six of the little things drifting around. Going back to my Wikipedia-reading days, these things could grow up to three feet in diameter and twenty feet long. The tank wasn’t big enough to hold one jellyfish that size, let along six of them.
Being the obstinate borderline-OCPD Aspie that I was, I waited near a staff door and when an aquarist came out I proceeded to interrogate him. He confirmed that the jellyfish weren’t fully-sized (their coloration also indicated they were juveniles) and said that they never would be, because they couldn’t provide the food for animals that big. Turns out, the reason why so many aquariums have moon jellyfish is because they make really good food sources for anything with jellyfish on the menu, which makes me feel rather silly for not having figured that out on my own. But aside from that, he brought up another point (which I had anticipated this time, go me). The aquarium simply didn’t want jellyfish that big. Whether it was the purple-striped ones or the neighboring egg-yolk jellyfish (which can grow up to the size of washing machines in the wild – obviously not at Henry Doorly Zoo, though) a bigger jellyfish tank would be a building and maintenance nightmare.
The reason is that jellyfish can’t just be stuck in a tank like about every other marine species in an aquarium. They’re drifters, so in an ordinary rectangular tank they’ll end up stuck in the corners unable to get out. And nobody wants to spend all day yanking them back to the middle of the tank so they impress visitors. So they need a cylindrical tank with a constant current in order to keep mobile. Also, remember in Finding Nemo? That filter intake that sucks Nemo in? Those things eat jellyfish. And no aquarium worth its salt (ha ha, pun not intended) wants their animals turned into confetti.
So, with that question answered, I pointedly ignored the sea anemones begging for attention and moved on. Then we found the cuttlefish.
And we stayed there for a good fifty minutes. Among other things I saw one of the animals cosplaying as a Reaper from Mass Effect (and immediately stopping when I called it out, given that I’ve played Mass Effect the cuttle probably feared for its life and/or plans at world domination) and one of them exchanged peace signs with my brother. Or possibly flipped him off European-style. Cuttlefish don’t live in American waters so I’m beginning to suspect the latter. Which is hilarious, either way.
Once we FINALLY got tired of the cuttlefish and decided to let other people see past us, we pretty much spent the rest of the visit doing mostly nothing. We ate some stuff, hated that one bat exhibit that smells like rotten fruit, didn’t see any prairie dogs because it was raining and interviewed a meerkat on sentry policies in desert dome exhibits. Also I refused to move from an exhibit until I saw burrowing owls. I eventually played my ADHD card and left anyway, but the next exhibit had a burrowing owl in it anyway that wasn’t being antisocial so we stared at him for a while.
He just might have been a Weeping Angel because he didn’t move at all while we watched him. Granted he didn’t turn to stone either, but hey, maybe he’s a special Weeping Angel.