Original URL: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2008/12/15/jellyfish_gone_wild/

Attack of the quarter-ton, 'fridge-sized' killer jellyfish

US gov: Slime-swarms threaten humanity's survival

By Lewis Page

Posted in Science, 15th December 2008 11:25 GMT

The US government has warned that enormous swarms of killer jellyfish - some the size of fridges and weighing up to a quarter of a ton - are ravaging the world's oceans. Particularly aggressive specimens are said to be capable of causing serious damage to ships, and have even managed to knacker nuclear power plants.

News of the challenge to humanity's dominance over planet Earth comes from the US National Science Foundation, which has put out a chilling warning entitled - rather beautifully - Jellyfish Gone Wild!

"When jellyfish populations run wild," the NSF jellyboffins warn, "they may jam thousands of square miles with their pulsing, gelatinous bodies."

It seems that no less than half a billion "refrigerator sized" slimy horrors weighing 450 pounds each invade the Sea of Japan daily, while Australian waters are plagued with "deadly, peanut-sized" Jellybabies of Death. It took the scyphozoan (or possibly hydrozoan) hordes just eight years to seize control of the Black Sea, apparently.

The NSF boffins warn that the gelatinous global usurpers are spawned in hundreds of vast "Dead Zones" in the world's oceans, where nothing but jelly-based lifeforms can live. These frightful blancmange sargassos send out their wobbling hordes on fearful expeditions of destruction, probing the strength of humanity's defences in preparation for the long-planned Time of Slime.

You don't want to, um, trifle with these fellows. Forty people are killed by jellyfish gangs each year "in the Phillipines alone", according to the NSF. Assuming this is typical, one might extrapolate wildly to a worldwide jelly death toll of several thousand - that's the equivalent of a 9/11 every year, as the human race is gradually slimed into extinction by unstoppable liquescent assassins.

It's not just unprotected swimmers being swarmed under by pulsating waves of dessert-topping-esque horror. The wobbly seagoing horrors have moved on to bigger things, attacking ships and causing "serious damage", apparently. No actual sinkings are mentioned by the NSF, but it's impossible to be sure that some ships - having strayed into one of the slime-spawning "Dead Zones", perhaps - haven't already been sucked under, engulfed with such speed they had no time even to send a distress signal.

It's plainly only a matter of time before the Somali pirate threat pales into insignificance before that of buccaneering jellyfish swarm raiders, preying on the human race's vital trade arteries and harvesting sailors like tasty snacks.

Indeed, the NSF specify that the jellies already have it in their power to cripple mankind's most potent technologies.

"Jellyfish have even accomplished what many anti-nuclear activists would like to do: they have disabled nuclear power plants", says Jellyfish Gone Wild!.

Humanity's rule may not be overturned in a Day, then, but a Night of Slime as the squelchy brutes cut the power and plunge the peoples of the Earth into their final darkness.

As the NSF boffins chillingly put it:

"Ask not for whom the jellyfish's bell tolls; it tolls for thee."

View Jellyfish Gone Wild! in all its sobering glory here (quite a lot of Flash). ®