L Gershwin M J Kingsford

The jellyfishes are conspicuous, but poorly understood, members of the Great Barrier Reef (GBR) fauna. Much attention has been given over the past 50 years to two forms in particular, the so-called 'box jellyfishes' and 'Irukandjis', both of which are highly dangerous and are known to kill humans. However, the dangerous species comprise only a small fraction of the jellyfishes that make their home in the GBR region.

Jellyfishes in general are among the most intriguing of animals, because they tantalise the child in all of us with their strange shapes, often bright colours, and sometimes flashing lights, and yet, even the milder stinging varieties seemingly represent the forbidden signal: DO NOT TOUCH! (Box 18.1.)

While appearing to be simple creatures consisting of no more than mucus and stinging cells, jellyfish have great potential to alter ecosystems through predation and uptake and excretion of nutrients. The medusa stage is the most obvious and often the most voracious part of the life cycle; however, the polyp stage represents the 'seed bank' of the species, making most jellyfish species incredibly difficult, if not impossible, to eradicate.

Several well-studied cases exist of jellyfish species being introduced to exotic environments and

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