Rare Jellyfish: Black Jellies Becoming More Common in Southern Calif.

Image: Rare Jellyfish: Black Jellies Becoming More Common in Southern Calif.

Tuesday, 09 Jul 2013 02:56 PM

By David Ogul

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What was once a rare jellyfish, black jellies may be forcing Southern Californians to become accustomed to their increasing presence.

The Orange County Register reported some Fourth of July swimmers came ashore with dark membranes clinging to their bodies as the jellyfish broke up in the surf in Laguna Beach. Tentacles on the black jellyfish can grow up to 30 feet long. The black sea nettle, as they also are formally known, can grow 3 feet wide.

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The sting of black jellies is nasty but not lethal, according to Nigella Hillgarth, executive director of Birch Aquarium at Scripps Institution of Oceanography.

The exotic species, which began washing up on San Diego County beaches as far back as 2010, was not officially described in scientific literature until 1997, according to a report in The San Diego Union-Tribune.

Hillgarth said scientists don't fully understand the creature’s life cycle or why the animal is being spotted more frequently.

Just 20 years ago, the species was seen infrequently off the Southern California Coast. But since 2005, they have been reported several times. Hillgarth told the Union-Tribune the trend could be attributed to shifting currents, warming ocean waters, or changes in the availability of plankton.

Dr. Brian Joseph of Chula Vista Nature Center told CBS that "jellyfish tend to come into areas where the water quality is decreasing."

Regardless how long the species has been in Southern California, the issue was the hot topic on social networking sites this morning.

Not all of the remarks were serious.

“If I saw a jellyfish in ocean: 6% not care. 14%: swim away. 80%: ‘You shall be my squishy’” tweeted @WillFerrell, who, says on his bio that he is not the real Will Ferrell.

“Just read news about rare black jellyfish stinging swimmers,” tweeted @DRUNKHULK. "It sad that media focus so much on race.”

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