Thursday, March 16, 2017

Rhizophora mangle and Cassiopeia

What is Rhizophora mangle, do you ask?
Why it's the red mangroves, of course! If you couldn't already tell that I am mildly obsessed with mangroves, here's your chance to be in on the secret. They're genuinely the coolest. I had the opportunity to travel to the Florida Keys (Big Pine Key, to be specific) a while back, and since then I've been hooked.
So what's the deal with these mangroves? They grow as aerial prop roots, and their roots form almost a weblike structure that catches sediment, creating GREAT nursing grounds for juvenile fish and other organisms.
One of these organisms happens to be the Cassiopeia jellyfish, which can also be recognized as the "upside down jellyfish." It, as suggested, lives floating seemingly upside down. When I was in the Florida Keys, I was able to wade out to one of these mangrove islands and pick up the baby jellies without them stinging me. How rad is that?! Some of my friends picked them up and had their skin irritated, though. Anyway, that was interesting to me, so I found this fascinating paper about a plant that is used to treat inflammation due to the venom of various types of jellyfish, one being the Cassiopeia.
Jellyfish toxins can cause proteolysis, "the breakdown of proteins or peptides into amino acids by the action of enzymes," as well as haemolysis, "the rupture or destruction of red blood cells." In this paper, the plant, referred to as IPA, was tested to see its effectiveness in treating both of these factors. While it was found that the plant neutralized the affect of all factors, the study also found that Cassiopeia jelly toxins only have haemolytic activities, and they lack proteolytic properties. Could that be why my friends and I were able to pick them up without being severely stung? Maybe I'll have to do an experiment to find out.

*I'd like to note that we were told by the scientists at the Marine Institute that we could pick up the jellies. We didn't just grab them willie nillie.*

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