Thoughts from Places

Jellyfish and Other Thoughts from the Tennessee Aquarium

This is the first blog in the “Thoughts from Places” category. It is an idea I 100% stole from Vlogbrothers, because I sincerely enjoy their “Thoughts from Places” videos (and I am a proud nerdfighter). Although, to be honest, theirs are better and you should probably check them out on YouTube.  🙂    

Whenever I travel, I love to look for any opportunity to visit the local Aquarium. Specifically, I enjoy the ocean and arctic exhibits at the aquarium. There is something appealing about the idea of being surrounded, even if it is just for a moment, by the colorful and exotic array of creatures that live all around the globe.

I love watching the penguins as they swim back and forth, and waddle around on the snow covered rocks. I love watching the sharks and the dolphins as they swim around in (separate) tanks that hold hundreds or thousands of gallons of water–tanks so large I usually can’t see the other side.

But what I love most are the jellyfish. The Jellyfish (or Sea Jellies as some scientists have begun to refer to them) are so simple and unassuming. They are often strategically placed in dark tanks with a light that illuminates their epidermis in such a way that you might actually assume the Jelly itself is glowing. When a whole group (or bloom) of jellyfish is on display, the scene is nothing shy of magical. The visual, though simple, provides a unique sense of calm–which as of yet, I have yet to be able to replicate.

The Jellyfish is a soft-bodied sea creature that moves around its habitat by contracting and relaxing its shell. They have no heart, blood, brains, or bones; and are made up of 95% water (the same as a cucumber!). Their simplicity makes it easy to assume that they are boring, but some of the most fascinating scientific discoveries have been made by studying the various species of Jellies.

Imagine a life where when you reach a roadblock, or make a bad decision, you have the opportunity to go back in time and start all over again. To do it all over, different, better. It sounds like the plot of a science fiction novel, or a not-so-beloved movie in a series about a swaggering pirate; but that is exactly the opportunity afforded to one species of Jellyfish, the Turritopsis Dohrni–or Immortal Jellyfish–through a process called transdifferentiation. Transdifferentiation is not uncommon among animals–there are examples of the process in other creatures, like chickens However, the ability to reverse the aging process and change a mature cell back into the adolescent cell in a pollup is unique to this species of Jelly.

Whenever I watch the jellyfish at the aquarium, I think about that species of Jellyfish. I think about how it has every opportunity to start over, to try again, erasing the mistakes of its past, or in some cases the mistakes of its present. Would I want that ability? Would I learn from my mistakes? Or am I destined to make the same ones again and again, no matter how many times I try?

And if I could just restart, would it be as important that I be productive? Would I work so hard to hone my talents, to be a better human? Or would I, as the jellyfish does, just float along, quiet an unassuming, taking a passive approach to life as I just calmly take it all in and enjoy the scenery throughout my life, and not just when I’m watching the jellyfish?

What is your favorite exhibit at the aquarium? Why? Let me know in the comments below!   

2 thoughts on “Jellyfish and Other Thoughts from the Tennessee Aquarium”

  1. YES! I learned so many interesting things when I was researching Jellies for this blog! I considered purchasing some jellyfish to keep at home, but, as it turns out, they are very high-maintenance when in captivity, and with my schedule I wouldn’t be able to give them the time and attention they need. I have also been looking into some silicone jellyfish home aquariums, but I haven’t found one that captures the same feeling as a live jellyfish. Obviously West Michigan is just going to have to get an aquarium so I can go visit on the regular, lol.


  2. The jelly fish and sea plants are my favorite. Something about those weird anemones with their altogether alien design and colors is exciting to see. Also anything that exhibits bio luminescence. How freaking cool is that?

    Like you, I always visit the local Aquarium. It astounds me that we know more about what’s in the atmosphere than in our own oceans! My theory is it’s a biological drive: we’re bipedal due to our instincts to look up, and we’re geared towards UP. We very rarely take the time to look down.

    Liked by 1 person

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