Jellyfish invade San Pedro

The Island Newspaper, Ambergris Caye, Belize            Vol. 17, No. 15            April 12, 2007

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The tentacles are the stinging part of the jellyfish. Although you are probably safe handling the creature from its top you are best off just avoiding them.

The beach invading jellyfish dotted the shore...

...and nearby shallow water.

Over the Easter holiday San Pedro saw many visitors from the mainland and world around, but no one expected the unwelcome guests that washed up on to the white sandy beaches of La Isla Bonita. The invasion of jellyfish dotted the beach where families traditionally play during the Semana Santa, and although most island residents are familiar with the occasional jellyfish that washes ashore, no one recognized this apple sized, transparent purplish blob that was ringed with dark spots and had long, thin tentacles.

    According to sources at the Hol Chan Marine Reserve office, the transparent purplish blobs are a species of jellyfish commonly known as warty jellyfish or mauve stingers (Pelagia noctiluca). They are widely distributed in all warm and temperate waters such as the Mediterranean Sea, Red Sea and Atlantic Ocean. In Greek Pelagia means “of the sea”, nocti stands for night and luca means light, thus Pelagia noctiluca can be described as a marine organism with the ability to glow in the dark. As its name implies, the creature has luminescent power.

    Typically the jellyfish are open water creatures, and their pulsating movements occur when their tentacles are contracted, straightened and stiffened. Movement is only restricted vertically and thus they are carried in large swarms by currents. Apparently the jellyfish that appeared on our beaches were caught in a current that brought them over the reef and into shallow water.

    Although the tentacles can deliver a slight sting, there does not seem to be significant harm when accidentally encountering one. Of course children are cautioned not to handle the creatures and it is recommended you avoid swimming in areas where they seem more prominent.
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