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The new ocean predator: Jellyfish?

As sharks and tuna are fished out, jellyfish take over.

Yet as much harm as jellyfish cause to unlucky beachgoers and the tourism industry, they effect the ocean ecology far more, Madin says.

An emerging theory suggests jellyfish can benefit marine ecosystems. According to a study published in the July 30 issue of Nature magazine, the daily motions of billions of small jellyfish could physically dampen the effects of global warming.

Researchers at the California Institute of Technology predicted that by dragging water and nutrients with them as they move, jellyfish stir the oceans, absorbing carbon dioxide and regulating water temperatures. Isolated experiments have confirmed their hypothesis.

Could the entire oceans soon fill with jellyfish, and if so, could they actually neutralize ocean pollution while at the same time thriving in it? Madin said there's still too little information to know for sure.

"There's little quantitative analysis, so we can't really tell if there's a trend," he said. "There might be some natural cycles [of jellyfish invasions] anyway. It's kind of a matter of how much attention is paid to the problem."

Learn more about the endangered oceans in an interactive graphic.

This report comes from a journalist in our Student Correspondent Corps, a GlobalPost project training the next generation of foreign correspondents.

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/study-abroad/091022/the-new-ocean-predator-jellyfish