Maude Delap (1866 - 1953)
Most people have had an encounter with a jellyfish, while out for a walk along the beach or swimming in the sea. Surprisingly, jellyfish are extremely resilient creatures.
They have no bones, so jellyfish fossils are rare, but some do exist as impressions. Did you know that jellyfish have been on Earth for over 500 million years? In other words, these blobs of jelly existed long before, during and after the giant dinosaurs that roamed the planet.
Jellyfish don’t need organs like we have, such as a brain, stomach, or lungs. Although they are simple, they do have their own unique features. Their infamous stinging cells or nematocysts are an adaptation on their tentacles to help them catch prey. True jellyfish or, scyphozoa, are large bell-shaped animals that can reach a width of 1.8 metres in diameter.
Ireland regularly records six types of true jellyfish around the coast, including the moon jellyfish, compass jellyfish, barrel jellyfish, mauve stinger, blue jellyfish and the Lion’s mane. With warming oceans, it’s likely that jellyfish are here to stay, as they are one of the species adapting to human-influenced climate change. The warmer water gives a boost to developing ‘baby’ jellyfish, resulting in large numbers or blooms.
At the National Museum of Ireland – Natural History, we have jellyfish displayed in the Irish Room on the ground floor. Since jellyfish are mostly made up of water there is no such things as jellyfish taxidermy. In museums, jellyfish are preserved as ‘Wet Collections’ in jars of liquid spirit. This spirit mixture makes them resilient from decay and means they can be used in on-going important scientific research.
Another way of displaying jellyfish in a museum setting is with the use of models. The Museum holds over 500 unique glass models of sea creatures (image included) made in the late 1800’s by father and son team, Leopold and Rudolf Blaschka. One and a half centuries later and these fragile, yet resilient models showcase some of the world’s finest masterpieces in glasswork.
Maude Delap (1866 – 1953)
Maude Delap was an Irish woman and self-trained marine scientist. Based on Valencia Island, Co. Kerry, she spent her life working in her home laboratory, recording experiments on marine-life in home-made sea aquariums. As a woman she was not provided with a formal education but through personal resilience, she educated herself becoming the first person in the world to breed jellyfish in captivity and observe their complex lifecycles. Maude, was one of many scientists that donated animals to the Museum’s scientific collection of over 2 million specimens.