Scarborough jellyfish breeder one of the UK's best

A Scarborough woman has become one of the UK's leading experts at breeding jellyfish.

Wednesday, 2nd January 2019, 8:05 am
Updated Wednesday, 9th January 2019, 2:36 am
Scarborough's Amy German has become one of the UKs leading experts at breeding jellyfish. © Tony Bartholomew

Successful jellyfish breeding is one of the aquarium industry’s trickiest challenges, and yet Scarborough Sea Life marine expert Amy German has become so adept at it she now regularly supplies home-grown jellyfish to other aquariums across the country.

Jellyfish are not only one of the marine world’s strangest animals, with no brains and bodies comprised mostly of water, but they are also difficult to keep healthy - and they have a unique and complex lifecycle.

In her eight-and-a-half years at Sea Life, however, Amy has gradually perfected her jellyfish husbandry skills to the point that last year alone, she sent 10 batches of baby jellies and larvae (polyps) of five different species to other aquariums across the UK.

Sealife audit at Scarborough Sealife Centre . Jelly fish providing some vivid colour for visitors . pic Richard Ponter 180108g

“We now have such a steady rate of production I could probably fulfil twice that many requests without ever leaving our own displays short of stock,” she said.

Amy, 33, of Cayton, apportions her success partly to consulting with others in the industry, partly to trial and error, but mostly to being absolutely fascinated by these enigmatic and diverse creatures.

“Their whole biology is unique and their reproductive cycle is extraordinary,” she said. “I really love working with them and I love talking about them too.”

Amy’s bustling jelly nursery features moon jellyfish, the species most often encountered in our own seas; upside down jellyfish, Australian white-spotted jellies; blue-spotted lagoon jellies and tiny ‘umbrella’ jellyfish, so called because they look just like tiny transparent umbrellas constantly furling and unfurling.

Amy will often engage Sea Life visitors in conversation about her jellyfish displays, and loves nothing better than inviting them – once hooked – into the behind-the-scenes area where the larval polyps are kept and planktonic jellyfish food is cultivated.

“Once they start to learn a little bit about them people’s initial curiosity very quickly turns to amazed fascination,” she said.

“Seeing that transformation is without doubt one of the most rewarding aspects of my job.”

That job is definitely a labour of love for Amy, who gained a BSc in marine and freshwater biology at Aberystwyth University and then an MRes in marine biology from Plymouth.

Amy’s skills have ensured that Scarborough Sea Life’s jellyfish displays are among the most impressive in the Sea Life estate, and also that her advice is now sought by other less experienced jelly breeders far and wide.

Here are just five of Amy’s favourite facts about jellyfish:

1. Jellyfish first appeared about 650 million years ago. They are found in every ocean of the world. They are even found in some freshwater lakes and ponds.

2. Some jellyfish are immortal. Turritopsis nutricula has the ability to travel backward to the polyp stage in times of stress.

3. Jellyfish don’t have brains, instead they have nerve nets which sense changes in the environment and coordinate the animal’s responses.

4. Many species of jellyfish are edible! Dehydrated and pickled jellyfish is considered a delicacy in several Asian countries

5. A jellyfish tentacle can still sting even if it is separated from the jellyfish’s body