Jellyfish – look, don't touch

We were talking about Jellyfish on the radio and I’ve meaning to post some information about them – so, sorry for taking so long.

They look like blobs when washed up on the beach. But in the water jellies are graceful. They range in size from about 1 inch (2 1/2 centimetres) to 200 feet (61 metres) long. They have been drifting through the world’s oceans for more than 650 million years.

Jellyfish are not fish at all. They are invertebrates, relatives of corals and sea anemones. A jelly has no head, brain, heart, eyes, nor ears. It has no bones, either. To capture prey for food, jellies have a net of tentacles that contain poisonous, stinging cells. When the tentacles brush against prey thousands of tiny stinging cells explode, launching barbed stingers and poison into the victim.

Apparently, according to some people, we occasionally get stung by jellyfish because we reach out to touch them as they are so pretty. Well to me they just look incredibly creepy and I doggy paddle in the opposite direction whenever I see, or think I see, one. Yuurgh. Although I can understand why kids might find them attractive, and we do need to teach them to avoid the creatures as they can seriously hurt children.

So, if you get stung, here are some immediate steps to take:

A jellyfish fires its poison whenever its tentacles brush against an object. In humans, the poison usually causes a sharp, burning sensation that may last from minutes to hours.

  • Take note of jellyfish warning signs posted on the beach.
  • Be careful around jellies washed up on the sand. Some still sting if their tentacles are wet. Tentacles torn off a jelly can sting, too.
  • Wash the wound in salt water, not fresh water as that could release more poison.
  • Don’t rub the wound or cover it with any type of fabric as it can make the jellyfish stings spread.
  • You can pour ammonia, or even pee, on the wound to neutralise the sting. If you’re near a first aid station or a lifeguard on the beach then they might have some ammonia. If you’re close to a beach bar, just grab some vinegar. But if all else fails, just get someone to pee on you. If you’re really organised you can put a bicarbonate of soda and water paste on the sting,
  • See a doctor if you have an allergic reaction.

I spoke to a Marine Biologist, Shevi, from Marineland in Portals (http://www.marineland.es/) , and I’m hoping to go and meet up with her soon. She told me that Jellyfish are increasing in numbers and there are a number of potential reasons for this : the lack of predators (i.e. turtles and other creatures which would have eaten the jellyfish simply are not around in the numbers they need to be. Partly this is to do with the incredible amount of plastic bags and other rubbish floating around in the seas – the turtles, not known for their ability to recognise Tescos or Marks and Spencer bags, are eating these thinking they are jellyfish, then choking on them and dying. Nice). Also the sea temperature is rising and the jellyfish enjoy warmer temperatures. Although personally I don’t agree with that as you won’t catch me in the sea except in August when it finally feels like a warm bath.

This year in Mallorca so far, it’s been pretty cold in the waters. But the Jellyfish are on their way, look out for the word ‘medusas’ as this is one of the Spanish words for the nasty creatures.

UPDATE: So far (it’s now August 22nd) there has not been the jellyfish invasion that had been predicted. If I hear more, I’ll tell you.

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