|Environmental control of phase transition and polyp survival of a massive-outbreaker jellyfish|In: PLoS One. Public Library of Science: San Francisco. ISSN 1932-6203, more
A number of causes have been proposed to account for the occurrence of gelatinous zooplankton (both jellyfish and ctenophore) blooms. Jellyfish species have a complex life history involving a benthic asexual phase (polyp) and a pelagic sexual phase (medusa). Strong environmental control of jellyfish life cycles is suspected, but not fully understood. This study presents a comprehensive analysis on the physicochemical conditions that control the survival and phase transition of Cotylorhiza tuberculata; a scyphozoan that generates large outbreaks in the Mediterranean Sea. Laboratory experiments indicated that the influence of temperature on strobilation and polyp survival was the critical factor controlling the capacity of this species to proliferate. Early life stages were less sensitive to other factors such as salinity variations or the competitive advantage provided by zooxanthellae in a context of coastal eutrophication. Coherently with laboratory results, the presence/absence of outbreaks of this jellyfish in a particular year seems to be driven by temperature. This is the first time the environmental forcing of the mechanism driving the life cycle of a jellyfish has been disentangled via laboratory experimentation. Projecting this understanding to a field population under climatological variability results in a pattern coherent with in situ records.