JAMM AQUINO / JAQUINO@STARBULLETIN.COM
The moon jellyfish Aurelia aurita is on display at the Waikiki Aquarium's new exhibit.
Attraction transparent at exhibition of jellyfish
The Waikiki Aquarium's newest residents don't have impressive teeth, eye-catching colors or, frankly, much backbone, but Tyler Takata still can't take his eyes off them.
"They're so weird. They just keep swimming and swimming and swimming," said the 8-year-old from Mililani, transfixed by dozens of moon jellyfish undulating around a 1,000-gallon cylindrical tank.
The jellyfish are part of a new showcase of one of the ocean's odder creatures, graceful and ethereal drift-feeders made up of 96 percent water and packing a stinging punch on contact.
Several types of jellyfish are on display in the minimalist exhibit, which features special water circulation systems that keep the jellyfish gracefully on the move.
They include moon jellyfish that seem to glow like their namesake, and Atlantic sea nettles with their nasty-looking, 2-foot-long stinging cells. There are box jellyfish, responsible for many a warning sign on Hawaii beaches, and white spotted jellyfish, which look like a pulsating, polka-dotted mushroom towing a crown of cauliflower.
The exhibit was made possible by a donation from Gary and Linda Goldfein, California residents whose granddaughter was disappointed that an earlier, smaller jellyfish exhibit had been removed.
Serendipitously, the aquarium was thinking about building a new jellyfish showcase, said Andrew Rossiter, the aquarium's director.
"To make a long story short, they offered to sponsor the whole thing," he said.
Some of the jellyfish were donated by aquariums in Japan and the mainland, while others were collected in the wild and bred by Waikiki Aquarium staff.
Signage is minimal because the highly seasonal organisms are expected to be replaced frequently, but Rossiter said general information about jellyfish will eventually be available through the aquarium's hand-held audio guides.
Little is known yet about the life spans of many species, and Rossiter hopes the exhibit can help answer some of the questions.
"Maybe this can contribute in some way to scientific knowledge," he said.
The exhibit replaces a large wall map that lit up with the push of a button to show the geographic distribution of selected marine species.
At first the change didn't go down well with 7-year-old Shayleen Langcao of Ewa Beach, who rounded the corner eager to light up the map.
"Hey! It's gone," she protested, but quickly changed her tune as the hypnotic power of the jellyfish took hold. "They're kind of icky but cute, too," she said.