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Research Spending & Results

Award Detail

Doing Business As Name:Providence College
  • John H Costello
  • (401) 865-2474
Award Date:08/11/2015
Estimated Total Award Amount: $ 227,722
Funds Obligated to Date: $ 227,722
  • FY 2015=$227,722
Start Date:08/15/2015
End Date:08/31/2020
Transaction Type:Grant
Awarding Agency Code:4900
Funding Agency Code:4900
CFDA Number:47.050
Primary Program Source:040100 NSF RESEARCH & RELATED ACTIVIT
Award Title or Description:RUI: Collaborative Research: What's their impact?: Quantification of medusan feeding mechanics as a tool for predicting medusan predation
Federal Award ID Number:1536672
DUNS ID:075704601
Parent DUNS ID:075704601
Program Officer:
  • Michael Sieracki
  • (703) 292-7585

Awardee Location

Street:1 Cunningham Square
Awardee Cong. District:01

Primary Place of Performance

Organization Name:Marine Biology Laboratory
Street:7 MBL St
City:Woods Hole
County:Woods Hole
Cong. District:09

Abstract at Time of Award

In many areas around the world jellyfish population abundances are increasing and, at times, result in destructive blooms. Their rapid growth and high feeding rates make them important predators in marine ecosystems and their effects on ecosystems and human activities have increasingly raised concerns. Unfortunately, scientists do not currently understand the factors that determine which types of prey jellyfish eat and how much prey they eat. This presents a knowledge gap of increasing importance as jellyfish undergo inexplicable population fluctuations and invade new environments. In this project the investigators will develop a robust understanding of the factors that determine who and how much jellyfish consume based on their morphology, behavior and size. This fundamental understanding of their feeding process will enable researchers to use simple jellyfish characteristics to predict the ecological impact of different types of jellyfish. This project will include the studying of a greatly under-studied group, rhizostome jellyfish, which represents many of the recorded bloom events and geographic expansions. Further, these techniques are sufficiently robust to have broader use in the study of physical-biological interactions for other jellyfish species and other pelagic organisms. The principal investigators participating in this collaboration are from primarily undergraduate institutions. Student participation in the project will involve several undergraduates during each year of the proposal. Through summer research at the Marine Biology Laboratory, undergraduate students will become exposed to a wide range of research and become immersed in a post-graduate environment that can strongly influence their perception of the scientific profession. The trophic impacts of scyphomedusae are subjects of broad international interest and results of our research will be exchanged with a wide range of colleagues, contributing to international scientific dialogue. In addition, we will use our contacts with media (e.g. PBS Shape of Life series, Fantastic Jellies exhibit at the New England Aquarium) involved in scientific education of the general public to communicate our new findings. The goal of this project is to quantify the variables that control the post-encounter capture process in order to be able to predict the prey selection patterns and clearance rate potential of different rowing medusae based upon their morphological characteristics and size. To achieve this goal, the PIs will use laboratory and in situ videography and optics techniques to quantify the outcome of individual interactions with prey in the lab and in the field. Step-by-step quantification of the post-encounter capture process will enable them to quantify capture efficiencies of different prey types and determine which stages of the process were most influential in determining the outcome of the encounter. The investigators will use these quantitative observations to relate medusan morphology and nematocyst properties to capture efficiencies. This will allow them to predict prey selection patterns. These predictions will be combined with flow-based encounter models to predict clearance rate potential and prey selection of different medusan species under different prey conditions. Finally, the investigators will validate our predictions using laboratory bottle incubation studies to quantify prey selection and clearance rates of medusae fed different prey assemblages. When achieved, this study will provide marine ecologists with the critical "missing links" to be able to model and predict the ecological impact of medusae populations in all environments.

Publications Produced as a Result of this Research

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Corrales, M.V., Colin, S. P., Sutherland, K.R. "Nematocyst distribution corresponds to prey apture location in hydromedusae with different predation modes." Marine Ecology Progress Series, v., 2017, p..

Bezio, N., Costello, J.H., Perry, E., Colin, S.P. "Effects of jellyfish morphology on feeding success: A comparative study." Marine Ecology Progress Series, v.596, 2018, p.893.

Chiaverano, L.M., Graham, W.M., Costello, J.H. "Parasites alter behavior, reproductive output, and growth patterns of Aurelia medusae in a marine lake." Marine Ecology Progress Series, v.540, 2015, p.87.

Sutherland, Kelly R. and Gemmell, Brad J. and Colin, Sean P. and Costello, John H. "Prey capture by the cosmopolitan hydromedusae, Obelia spp., in the viscous regime: Obelia prey capture" Limnology and Oceanography, v.61, 2016, p.. doi:10.1002/lno.10390 Citation details  

Nagata, RM and Morandini, AC and Colin, SP and Migotto, AE and Costello, JH "Transitions in morphologies, fluid regimes, and feeding mechanisms during development of the medusa Lychnorhiza lucerna" Marine Ecology Progress Series, v.557, 2016, p.. doi:10.3354/meps11855 Citation details  

Jaspers, C and Costello, J and Sutherland, K and Gemmell, B and Lucas, K and Tackett, K and Dodge, K and Colin, S "Resilience in moving water: Effects of turbulence on the predatory impact of the lobate ctenophore Mnemiopsis leidyi" Limnology and oceanography, v.In pres, 2017, p.. Citation details  

Gemmell, B.J., Colin, S.P., Costello, J.H. "Widespread utilization of passive energy recapture in swimming medusae." Journal of Experimental Biology, v.221, 2018, p..

Kelly R. Sutherland, Sean P. Colin, John H. Costello, Brad J. Gemmell "Prey capture by the cosmopolitan hydromedusa, Obelia sp., in the viscous regime." Limnology and Oceanography, v.61, 2016, p.2309. doi:10.1002/lno.10390 

Renato M. Nagata, John H. Costello, Sean P. Colin, Alvaro E. Migotto & André C. Morandini "Transitions in morphology and fluid environment lead to the development of feeding mechanism in a Rhizostomeae medusa" Marine Ecology Progress Series, v.557, 2016, p.145. doi:10.3354/meps11855 

Nagata R.M., Colin, S.P., Migotto, A.E., Morandini, A.C., Costello, J.H. "Transitions in morphologies, fluid regimes, and feeding mechanisms during development of the medusa Lychnorhiza lucerna." Marine Ecology Progress Series, v.557, 2016, p.145.

Jaspers C., Costello, J. H., Sutherland, K. R., Gemmell, B., Lucas, K. N , Tackett, J., Dodge, K., Colin, S. P. "Resilience in moving water: Effects of turbulence on the predatory impact of the lobate ctenophore Mnemiopsis leidyi." Limnol. Oceanogr., v., 2018, p.. doi:10.1002/lno.10642 

Chiaverano, L.M., Graham, W.M., Costello, J.H. "Parasites alter behavior, reproductive output, and growth patterns of Aurelia medusae in a marine lake." Mar. Ecol. Prog. Ser., v.540, 2015, p.87. doi:10.3354/meps11513 

Sutherland K.R., Gemmell B.J., Colin, S.P., Costello, J.H. "Prey capture by the cosmopolitan hydromedusa, Obelia spp., in the viscous regime." Limnology and Oceangraphy, v.61, 2016, p.2309.

Corrales-Ugalde, M.V., Colin, S. P., Sutherland, K.R. "Nematocyst distribution corresponds to prey capture location in hydromedusae with different predation modes." Marine Ecology Progress Series., v.568, 2017, p.101. doi: 

Project Outcomes Report


This Project Outcomes Report for the General Public is displayed verbatim as submitted by the Principal Investigator (PI) for this award. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this Report are those of the PI and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation; NSF has not approved or endorsed its content.

The shapes and sizes of jellyfish vary greatly between different jellyfish species. Our goal was to evaluate how jellyfish shape, or morphology, can be used to predict the role of different species in the food web.

We found that for all jellyfish species studied, the amount of food they consumed was directly related to the amount of water they process through their tentacles. However, the shape and number of tentacles and other capture surfaces was the most important determinant of the type of food they captured.

We found that some species of jellyfish were more specialized at eating really small prey. These jellyfish are called rhizostomes and they do not have tentacles but have many very small digitata that line their complex mouths. Semeostome jellyfish, which generally have long tentacles and oral arms, are more specialized at capturing larger prey like adult copepods.

Copepods are highly abundant zooplanktonic crustaceans that are found everywhere in the oceans and are very fast swimmers. However, we showed that because of their small size relative to the feeding current generated by jellyfish, the fast escape swimming does not significantly help copepods escape predation by jellyfish. 

Finally, we were able to demonstrate several ways that jellyfish move water to enhance the efficiency with which they are able to swim and transport prey to their tentacles and other capture surfaces. 

Most of the research done for this project was conducted by undergraduate college students. The students who worked on this project experienced the entire scientific process. They designed their experiments, carried out all of the work and analyzed the data. They were also integrally involved in communicating our findings with the scientific community by presenting their work at international conferences and writing papers that were published in peer-reviewed journals.

Last Modified: 12/21/2020
Modified by: John H Costello

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