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New York City’s Longest-Running Light Display?

The beautiful comb jelly. Credit: Clockwise from top left: L.L. Moroz & M. Citarella/Univ. of Florida; Dimijian Greg/Getty Images; © Ingo Arndt/Minden Pictures/Corbis; Boris Pamikov/Shutterstock; Dimijian Greg/Getty Images; Casey Dunn/Brown Univ.

For several summers, paddlers circumnavigating Manhattan at night have been delighted to spot comb jellies at the NW end of the Peter Jay Sharp Boathouse on Swindler Cove. The Harlem River’s murkiness dulls the brilliance of these invertebrates with ferris wheel bioluminescence, but it’s still magical to see constellations light up below. Now, according to this article by Amy Maxmen, it seems this creature might radically revise our understanding of evolution. Does the comb jelly, and not the sponge, point to Earth’s first animals? Could animal life have become complex so rapidly? Did the animal kingdom arise twice?

HarborLAB will visit sites with comb jellies this summer. We hope such astonishing creatures will excite young people about science and the value in preserving our local natural environment.

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