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Sleeping Jellyfish

September 27, 2017

Snoozing jellyfish help scientists understand the origins of sleep.

Transcript

Multiple Cassiopea jellyfish on the bottom of a tank. LGoentoro

BOB HIRSHON (host): Multiple Cassiopea jellyfish on the bottom of a tank. (L. Goentoro)

Snoozing jellyfish. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

A typical day for the Cassiopea jellyfish consists of sitting upside down on the seafloor, trailing its tentacles in the currents.

RAGI NATH (California Institute of Technology):

It sits in place, and it pulses, and that’s pretty much its behavioral repertoire.

HIRSHON:

That’s Caltech biologist Ravi Nath. He and his colleagues report in the journal Current Biology that despite its low-key lifestyle and lack of a brain, Cassiopea sleeps each night, pulsing more gently, ignoring stimuli and, if deprived of sleep, acts groggy and impaired. The discovery raises questions about the nature of sleep.

NATH:

Is sleep a property of neurons? Or is sleep a property of complex circuits? How complex of a system do you need before you start seeing something sleep?

HIRSHON:

He says discovering sleep’s evolutionary origins will help scientists better understand the phenomenon in us. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.

Story by Bob Hirshon