Thousands of animals around the world are at risk of extinction. But not jellyfish — they're thriving in warm, polluted water.

© Dan Abbott, underwater cinematographer with Wild Ocean Week

By Aylin Woodward, Business Insider

  • The world is in the midst of a mass extinction - the sixth time in the planet's history that species are experiencing a major global collapse in numbers.
  • Up to 1 million species are threatened with extinction, many within decades, according to a United Nations report.
  • Human activity is to blame: Habitats are being destroyed due to pollution, climate change, and deforestation.
  • But one group of animals is benefiting: jellyfish. Rising ocean temperatures and overfishing are enabling jellyfish populations to grow at explosive rates.

A growing body of evidence suggests the planet is in the midst of a sixth mass extinction

Between 500,000 and 1 million plant and animal species face extinction, many within decades, according to a report from the United Nations. Pollution, habitat loss, warming oceans, and other consequences of climate change are driving animal populations down on an unprecedented scale. 

But one group of creatures is bucking this ominous trend: jellyfish. 

Jellyfish have roamed Earth's oceans for 500 million years. The bell-shaped underwater denizens can be found all over the world; there are some 4,000 species of them, according to the Smithsonian Institute

Over the past two decades, global populations of many jellyfish species have skyrocketed. Swarms of them, known as "jellyfish blooms," have become more common worldwide, forcing beach closures, causing power outages, and killing other fish. 

Recent research has revealed that the increases in jellyfish populations can be linked to human activity, too. As greenhouse gases trap heat on the planet, oceans are heating up - they absorb 93% of that excess heat. Unlike many marine species, jellies can thrive in warmer water with less oxygen.

What's more, their natural predators, like turtles and sharks, are being overfished by humans. 

Here's what to know about why jellyfish are thriving - and why their population explosion could be dangerous. 

Jellies are 95% water. The creatures don't have brains, stomachs, intestines, or lungs.

© Flickr/brianandjaclyn

Instead, nutrients and oxygen slip through their gelatinous layers of see-through skin

They move by rapidly contracting their mushroom-shaped bell to expel water, which propels them forward.

© Port of San Diego

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Pets Magazine: Thousands of animals around the world are at risk of extinction. But not jellyfish — they're thriving in warm, polluted water.
Thousands of animals around the world are at risk of extinction. But not jellyfish — they're thriving in warm, polluted water.
Half a million of Earth's species may soon be vulnerable to extinction, according to the UN. Jellyfish, however, are proliferating in warmer waters.
Pets Magazine
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