They may have no brains (or any other organs except for a stomach) but jellyfish are not as silly as you might think. They've been around for over 500 million years (they pre-date the dinosaurs and are the oldest multicellular animals on the planet). And it looks like they're going to keep going longer than practically any other inhabitant of the ocean as they are immune to the ever-increasing pollution in the seas. In fact, they positively thrive on it. They are also the stars of a new show – if that's the word – at the London Aquarium.
Someone with a theatrical eye has lit them artfully with ever-changing colours so they are no longer something you'd want to avoid stepping on down at the beach – instead they are visions of translucent loveliness that move, graceful and languid, through the water. Watching them has a curiously relaxing effect and the aquarium has missed just one trick, I think. They should be playing Strauss waltzes as an accompaniment.
They seem somewhat less beguiling when you learn that jellyfish kill more people every year than sharks. This is down to just one jellyfish – the box jellyfish or seawasp – which is classified as the world's most dangerous marine animal. So it makes the sharks seem quite friendly by comparison. They are kept in their own section of the aquarium but there are also plenty of fish in there with them, some of them really rather small and pretty. So how come they get don't get eaten? Apparently, sharks are more lazy than deadly when fed regularly. They just can't be bothered so all those little Nemos can be safe inside their scales.
Swimming around with the sharks is Betty who is a bit of a star all by herself. She's a cross between a ray and a shark, otherwise known as a Bowmouth Guitarfish and covered in tiny teeth! She glides around looking at the other sharks and rays but, sadly, never finds anyone who looks like she does. Popular as diving with sharks has become these days (you can do it at the aquarium, too) you wouldn't catch me cuddling up to one. I have, though, played with rays in the ocean. They're irresistible – it's something about that smile, I think.
With thanks to The Gem (aka Gemma Knight) and the London Aquarium for images.