Biological Invasions

, Volume 17, Issue 3, pp 851–867 | Cite as

Population-level perspectives on global change: genetic and demographic analyses indicate various scales, timing, and causes of scyphozoan jellyfish blooms

  • Michael N DawsonEmail author
  • Kristin Cieciel
  • Mary Beth Decker
  • Graeme C. Hays
  • Cathy H. Lucas
  • Kylie A. Pitt
Molecular Tools


Whether a perceived increase in the abundance of jellyfishes is related to changing marine environments has been considered primarily using large-scale analyses of multi-species assemblages. Yet jellyfish blooms—rapid increases in the biomass of pelagic coelenterate species—are single-species demographic events. Using published and new genetic analyses and population surveys, we investigate whether there may be a critical knowledge gap between the scales of recent analyses and the scales of natural phenomena. We find that scyphomedusae may show population genetic structure over scales of tens to hundreds of kilometers, that environments vary regionally and locally, and that populations of medusae can display uncorrelated dynamics on these scales. These findings suggest genetic differences between populations and/or environmental differences between sites are important determinants of population dynamics in these jellyfishes. Moreover, the local abundance of medusae may be most strongly correlated with preceding rather than current local environmental conditions, indicating there is a cumulative time-course to the formation of ‘blooms’. Broad-scale macro-ecological analyses will need to build from coordinated, long-term, fine-grained studies to synthesize, rather than mask, population-level phenomena in larger-scale analyses.


Climate Discomedusae Dispersal Environmental change Plankton Scyphozoa 



We thank Keith M. Bayha and Sarah Abboud who sequenced Aurelia aurita and Chrysaora melanaster, and Coral Reef Research Foundation who conducted the surveys of Mastigias papua and collected matching environmental data in Palau. We also thank the scientific staff from the BASIS project and the fishing crews of the F/V Sea Storm and F/V Northwest Explorer F/V Epic Explorer, R/V Oscar Dyson, and F/V Bristol Explorer for their considerable efforts and technical assistance in all aspects of the field surveys, without whose help the Bering Sea work would have been impossible. Two anonymous reviewers helpfully critiqued an earlier version of the paper allowing us to refine its message. This research was supported in part by National Science Foundation Grant no. DEB-07-17071 and presented as a work-in-progress at the MOLTOOLS workshop held in Lecce in September 2012; support for participation by MND in the MOLTOOLS workshop was provided by the European Community’s Seventh Framework Programme (FP7/2011-2015) for the project Vectors of Change in Oceans and Seas Marine Life, Impact on Economic Sectors (VECTORS). Use of trade names does not imply endorsement by the National Marine Fisheries service, NOAA.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Michael N Dawson
    • 1
    Email author
  • Kristin Cieciel
    • 2
  • Mary Beth Decker
    • 3
  • Graeme C. Hays
    • 4
    • 5
  • Cathy H. Lucas
    • 7
  • Kylie A. Pitt
    • 6
  1. 1.School of Natural SciencesUniversity of CaliforniaMercedUSA
  2. 2.NOAA Fisheries, Auke Bay LaboratoriesAlaska Fisheries Science CenterJuneauUSA
  3. 3.Department of Ecology and Evolutionary BiologyYale UniversityNew HavenUSA
  4. 4.School of Life and Environmental SciencesDeakin UniversityWarrnamboolAustralia
  5. 5.Department of BiosciencesSwansea UniversitySwanseaUK
  6. 6.Australian Rivers Institute and Griffith School of EnvironmentGriffith UniversityGold CoastAustralia
  7. 7.Ocean & Earth Science, National Oceanography Centre University of Southampton Waterfront CampusSouthamptonUK

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