The marvelous lake of the golden jellyfish: almost extinct

Curiosities, English - November 12, 2022
Image 1. The marvelous lake of the golden jellyfish: almost extinct

Have you ever dreamed of swimming among millions of jellyfish and not die trying? Well, your dream can come true, you just have to travel to Ongeim`l Tketau, the jellyfish lake. Next, we will travel to this spectacular natural spot:

This wonderful corner of the planet is located in the archipelago of Palau, Micronesia. Bathed by the Pacific Ocean and about 500 kilometers east of the Philippines. This country is one of the least populated in the world and also one of the youngest, since it was established in 1994 after gaining independence from the United States.

One of the oldest species on the planet

It is said that some 10,000 years ago this brackish lake was connected to the ocean by a natural passage, which was closed at an undetermined time, trapping many marine species in the lake. Over time, all have disappeared except for the jellyfish, which with their incredible ability to adapt have reproduced to reach the current number, estimated at about 7 million specimens.

The Ongeim`l Tketau (original name in Palauan), is about 30 meters deep at its deepest point, although after 14 meters there is no life at all, since the water lacks oxygen and contains high concentrations of hydrogen sulfide, which also makes it forbidden to dive beyond these 14 meters. The water in the lake is renewed with the tides, filtering from the ocean through small cracks and subway conduits.

The jellyfish, of the Mastigias or Golden Jellyfish species, since they lack predators, have lost their stinging quality over the centuries and are no danger to bathers.

Every day, when the sun begins to warm up, the incredible journey of the jellyfish takes place, which travel in groups around the lake from the westernmost area, where they spend the night, to the eastern area, which is more illuminated and warmer. One of the reasons why the rest of the species that were trapped there have disappeared is the lack of food, which is no problem for the jellyfish, which obtain most of their energy from the algae that live in their tissues. These algae transform sunlight into sugars that they share with their gelatinous hosts.

 A terrible drought season devastated

A terrible drought season devastated this territory, in the midst of the so-called The Child phenomenon, and since 1998, the number of these incredible golden jellyfish in this magical lake of Ongeim’l Tketau, the most famous of the Palau Islands and listed as a Unesco World Heritage Site, has been decreasing.

The death of these creatures has been massive. Already in 2005 there were about 30 million, but in only two years, by 2007 the number dropped to five million and nowadays, they are almost extinct from the planet. Several scientists accuse that one of the main causes of this environmental tragedy is due to the indiscriminate presence of visitors and their frequent use of sunscreens, which with their powerful chemicals have affected the entire ecosystem of the lake in the Palau Islands.  It is also attributed to climate change.

By 2017 the issue was worse than critical. With further testing, it was determined that it was indeed the high concentrations of chemical compounds in sunscreen products, which tourists over the years were leaving in the lake.

But thanks to effective actions by professionals committed to the environment, such as biologist Gerda Ucharm, a member of the Coral Reef Research Foundation, the number of golden jellyfish began to rise again. for that year, the number was at 630,000 and remained so in 2018.

These jellyfish apart from presenting an extraordinary appearance, they are a subspecies like no other in this world and are only found in this area of the globe. They have a tiny sting, which thousands and millions of years ago they used against their predators. Now their sting is painless and unnoticeable.

The jellyfish lake has become a pilgrimage center for nature and diving lovers, who find in this peculiar salt lake a unique place on the planet where they can share a bath with these peculiar golden gummy creatures. Unfortunately, it has not been managed responsibly.