MEPS 195:145-158 (2000)  -  doi:10.3354/meps195145

Aggregations of the jellyfish Aurelia labiata: abundance, distribution, association with age-0 walleye pollock, and behaviors promoting aggregation in Prince William Sound, Alaska, USA

Jennifer E. Purcell1,*, Evelyn D. Brown2, Kevin D.E. Stokesbury2,**, Lewis H. Haldorson3, Thomas C. Shirley3

1University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science, Horn Point Laboratory, PO Box 775, Cambridge, Maryland 21613, USA
2Institute of Marine Science, University of Alaska-Fairbanks, Fairbanks, Alaska 99775-7220, USA
3Juneau Center, School of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences, University of Alaska-Fairbanks, Juneau, Alaska 99801, USA
*E-mail: **Present address: Center for Marine Science and Technology, University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth, 706 Rodney French Blvd., New Bedford, Massachusetts 02744-1221, USA

ABSTRACT: Aurelia labiata medusae occurred in aggregations with hundreds to millions of jellyfish. The aggregations were widely distributed in inlets of Prince William Sound (PWS), Alaska. Aerial surveys of PWS in May to August in 1995, 1996, and 1997 showed marked interannual variation in the numbers of aggregations observed, from a minimum of 38 in 1997 to a maximum of 557 in 1996. Acoustic surveys showed that the aggregations extended from near-surface (0 to 5 m) to 15 m depth. Schools of young-of the-year walleye pollock Theragra chalcogramma were associated with A. labiata, both within and below the aggregations. All seine catches that contained juvenile pollock also contained jellyfish. Medusa swimming was analyzed from underwater videotapes in order to elucidate how aggregations might be formed and maintained. Medusae did not swim in circles in the aggregations. Medusae all swam vertically in the same direction, either up or down, in crowded parts of the aggregations, suggesting that they had become concentrated in flow features, like convergences, in the water column. Reduced swimming, due primarily to frequent collisions among medusae in the aggregations, also may have caused the medusae to become concentrated. The potential advantages of aggregation include increased fertilization success, retention near shore where planula settlement sites and zooplankton prey may be more abundant, retention in convergences where zooplankton are concentrated, and reduced predation.

KEY WORDS: Scyphozoa · Aurelia · Aerial surveys · Acoustics · Underwater video · Swimming · Aggregation · Theragra chalcogramma

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