Thursday, January 30, 2014

Scientists create peanut butter and jellyfish -- because they can

Jellyfish with peanut butter
This jellyfish is full of peanut butter.
(Credit: Dallas Zoo and Children's Aquarium)
Jellyfish are popular attractions at aquariums, with their see-through bodies and floating lifestyle. Keeping hungry jellyfish fed, however, can be a challenge. Fish and shrimp-based protein sources can be expensive, inconvenient, and may ultimately be unsustainable. That's why P. Zelda Montoya and Barrett L. Christie, two aquarists from the Dallas Zoo and Children's Aquarium, decided to try something a little different: peanut butter.
A test group of around 250 young jellyfish were fed creamy peanut butter, free of corn syrup or preservatives. They ate the peanut butter twice a day for five weeks. The first notable observation was that the jellies turned a bit brown after imbibing. The aquarists say the growth of the jellyfish seemed to be on par with those fed more standard diets.
The results appear in a paper in the January issue of the offbeat Drum and Croaker journal for aquarium professionals, with the engaging title of "The creation of the world's first peanut butter and jellyfish." The aquarists write, "We herein report on what we believe to be the first known unholy amalgamation of America's favorite lunchtime treat and live cnidarians."
The aquarists are certainly entertained by the experiment, writing, "[W]e would love to claim we conducted this trial with noble purpose, but the truth is that we just wanted to make peanut butter and jellyfish simply to see if it could be done. Whether or not it should be done is a question no doubt to be debated by philosophers for the ages (or at least by some aquarists over beers)."
There's plenty to amuse even the casual reader of the paper, but there is sanity behind the inanity. As ocean resources get tighter, aquariums may need to find alternate ways to feed the sea creatures that delight so many people. Plus, it could open the door for more research, and even more entertaining references to peanut butter and jellyfish.

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