The Species Superhighway (New Scientist)

March 2015 // In 2011, workers struggled to unclog the cooling system of a power plant in Hadera, Israel. Thousands of what looked like wet plastic bags were desperately scraped out of the plant’s water intake. But still they kept pouring in – breaking up into gelatinous slime and threatening to cut off the electricity supply of millions of people.

Image: Dale Edwin Murray

The culprit was a large stinging jellyfish called Rhopilema nomadica. It often forms massive swarms, some as much as 100 kilometres long. “When these blooms appear, tourists have to stay on the beach, and fishermen have to stay on the shore,” says marine biologist Bella Galil of the National Institute of Oceanography in Israel. Yet until the mid-1970s, this species wasn’t found in the Mediterranean. It arrived via the Suez Canal.

For most of the year, the current in the canal flows from the Red Sea north towards the slightly lower Mediterranean. “It’s like one of those travelators at the airport,” says Galil. “You get on it and whoosh, you’re in the Mediterranean.”


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