Moon Jellyfish in Shoreham Harbour
Photograph by Noel Cornwall
Common Moon Jellyfish
Five Species of British Jellyfish
Lion's Mane Jellyfish
Sting of a Jellyfish
Treatment of Stings
COMMON MOON JELLYFISH
by Jane Lilley
Common Jellyfish (also called Moon Jellyfish), Aurelia aurita, which do not sting humans. The threadlike tentacles around the edge of the bell can sting, and may occasionally catch small swimming animals for food, but their stings - like minute harpoons fired by springs - are not powerful enough to pierce our thick skin. They feed mostly by trapping microscopic plankton in a film of mucus which flows over the surface of the bell and is picked off as it reaches the edges by the thick mouth tentacles underneath. They swim by pulsing the bell, pushing themselves slowly forwards through the water.
Inside the top of the bell you can see four rounded pinkish masses, which are the gonads.
In October or November the jellyfish will breed, releasing tiny swimming embryos into the water, and the adults then probably die as the water gets colder. The embryos attach themselves to fixed structures, and it would be well worth looking for them on the piles of piers, although they are only 1 or 2 cm long. They look a bit like tiny sea anemones for a long time, and feed and grow like this for a year, hanging downwards from a support. In their second winter they lose their tentacles, and their bodies elongate and gradually divide crosswise into a stack of little discs. Eventually these break free one by one and swim away to grow into tiny jellyfish.
Although jellyfish can swim slowly, they are largely at the mercy of the tides and currents, and at times large numbers are concentrated into bays, and may be stranded on beaches. The most spectacular swarms are seen in late summer when they are at their largest.
The best viewing area is the piece of waste land opposite where the old Gas Works used to be and to the east on the other side of the canal to where the new Natural Gas Power Station is being built.
Richard Huggett reports thousands from off Eastbourne, 20 miles to the east up the English Channel, so the swarms must occur all along the English Channel. It seems a good year (1999) of all species of jellyfish around Britain with records of the venomous Lions' Mane Jellyfish, Cyanea capillata from Scotland in larger numbers this year.
By 25 July 1999, the jellyfish seemed to have disappeared in Shoreham Harbour. AH.
On 14 July 1999,
reported many Moon Jellyfish from the strandline Padstow (SW 9177), Cornwall.
They were stranded from the last week in June 1999 to the second week in
July. Around 22 July 1999 hundreds were stranded at Mother Ivey’s Bay (SW
8676) , reported by Mrs V C Tummon.
from Seaquest SW (Cornwall Wildlife Trust web pages).
Sting refs (link)
Notes (obscure refs)
August 2002 (beginning)
The large and dense mass of Moon Jellyfish in Loch Nevis (Scotland) was particularly outstanding. The enhanced photograph (right) gives some idea of the density. The congregation of jellyfish measured 12 metres by 3 metres and at least a metre thick.
6 June 2004
An extraordinary raft of Moon Jellyfish, Aurelia aurita, was seen eight miles (13 km) off the coast of north-west Wales, off the Lleyn peninsula at the north of Cardigan Bay. The Moon Jellyfish had somehow contrived to wedge themselves together into a continuous raft of eight metres square, each of the tens of thousands of jellyfish about 10 cm in diameter, each wedged several deep in one large teeming mass, each jellyfish "pulsing down" in the glassy dead calm sea between two headlands. This unusual congregation has been reported once before in the enclosed Scottish Loch Nevis, but has not been recorded before in the open sea.
The reason that they occur in aggregations is not intentional but purely
a factor of their planktonic lifestyle. Where feeding conditions
are good the sessile asexual reproductive phase, the polyp will thrive,
and all come to maturity at much the same time. This may lead to
an almost synchronous release of the young jellyfish or ephyrae.
If these find suitable food they will grow and all the youngsters from
one area will drift around together as dictated by the currents and influenced
by the winds. The only way a jellyfish could "decide" where it was
going would be by moving up or down in the water column and finding itself
in a water body moving in a different direction.
National Marine Aquarium
Plymouth PL4 0LF
Telephone: (+44)01752 275216 / 01752 600301
Fax: (+44)01752 600593
Five Other British
by Andy Horton
|Barrel||Jellyfish||Rhizostoma||octopus (=R.. pulmo) (Pic)|
The last 4 species can sting humans.
Hansard Common Names
Man o'War, Physalia physalis, and the By-the-wind
Sailor, Velella velella, (Pic)
are two jellyfish-type animals found on south-western coasts of Britain
in some years. They are, technically, colonial hydrozoans, Physalia
is in the Order Siphonophora, Velella is in the Order Athecata;
of the Class Hydrozoa.
Portuguese Man-o'-War, Physalia physalis, washed up on Pendine Sands in Carmarthenshire, south Wales.
Photograph and Report by Chris English
Nine potentially Portuguese Man-o'-War, Physalia physalis, were washed up on the West Sussex coast. The creatures, which can give a nasty sting, were found on beaches at Bracklesham Bay, East Wittering, West Wittering and Selsey.
11 August 2008
Three Portuguese Man-o'-War, Physalia physalis, were washed ashore on the Dorset coast, notably one at Kimmeridge Bay which was placed on display in the Marine Life Centre.
4 August 2008
I discovered a Portuguese Man-o'-War, Physalia physalis, on Southsea seafront, Portsmouth, to the east of the pier. This particular one was transparent rather than the distinctive blue colour and was only identified by its shape and form. The sting on the palm of my hand was mild but persistent and still felt ten days afterwards.
Portuguese Man-o'-War are a jellyfish type type of colonial hydroid that are washed up on western shores and sometimes on the English Channel coast in small numbers in some (less than half) years.
A Portuguese Man-o'-War was also washed up at Smuggler's Cove, Holcombe, near Teignmouth, in south Devon.
12 October 2008
I found a small Portuguese Man-o'-War, Physalia physalis, washed up on Cape Cornwall, west Cornwall.
26 October 2000
Two Portuguese Man-o'-War, Physalia physalis, were both discovered on the same beach (Lohar, Waterville, Co. Kerry Ireland) but one was down at the low tide and the other was much higher up. They were both about 10 cm long The other one was deflated.
Report by Rosemary Hill
circa 9 October 2000
A Portland fisherman, Derek Galpin, discovered Portuguese Men O' War washed up on Chesil Beach, Dorset. I went along to have a look and found about half a dozen in Chesil cove. Derek said he hasn't seen them since 1967 - I certainly haven't seen them here before
Marine Awareness Officer
Dorset Wildlife Trust
By 24 October 2000, 140 Portuguese Men O' War were discovered on Dorset shores.
9 October 2000
We have had prevailing north-westerly winds, which have brought in lots of Portuguese Man-of-war. I found 8 yesterday (Sunday) on Guernsey's west coast Cobo and Saline beaches. Tony Bougourd who found 3 on Perelle Beach on October 6 found another one yesterday. He spoke to a fisherman who said there were 'hundreds stranded on an off-shore spit' outside Perelle. Cuttlefish bones have also started washing up on west coast beaches in large numbers. This is normal for this time of year. The cuttlefish migrate from the Normandy bays and move North-West into deeper Channel water.
6 October 2000
Tony Bougourd found 3 Portuguese Man-of-War washed on Guernsey's West Coast Perelle beach, the same week as they were found in 1999. Richard Lord (Guernsey)
(Photograph by Jane Herbert, Editor of the Cornwall Wildlife Trust web site)
2 October 1999
A Portuguese Man o'War, Physalia physalis, was washed up on Porthcothan Beach (SW 8572), Cornwall. This colonial hydrozoan (jellyfish-like invertebrate animal) has a float bladder that was fully inflated and 22 cm in length. There were quite a thick bunch of stinging tentacles still attached, to a length of about 15 cm. It was washed in with the incoming tide after a period of strong winds. It was washed in with the incoming tide after a period of strong south-westerly winds.
As expected, several more Portuguese Men o'War were discovered, five on Porthcothan, two on Watergate Bay and a friend found five on Gwithian (Hayle) beaches, over the weekend. Some specimens were alive and have been placed in an aquarium for further study.
By Sunday night the tally had increased to 22 from Hayle up to Trevose Head. The tentacles on the biggest were well over a metre long, possibly twice that length (had they been given the chance to extend fully).
Link for the Latest Reports
9 January 2005
A post storm check of Thurlestone (south Devon) beach for stranded cetaceans or oiled birds revealed my first ever UK sittings of by the Jack-by-the-Wind-Sailors, Velella velella, several hundred, some as just the chitinous float and sail.. I have never noticed them before in Britain but I saw millions on beaches in SW Corsica last May. No sign of the predatory Violet Sea Snails, Janthina sp., often associated with this creature.
The massive stranding of By-the-wind Sailors, Velella velella, has now been established that it has stretched much further than just the Cornish coast and that the numbers were in billions. Reports of large numbers of large specimens and huge numbers occurred all along the Welsh coast as far north as Anglesey and almost certainly further north as well.
Photograph by Jonathan Smith
Photograph by Jonathan Smith
24 September 2004
Thousands of Velella were washed up at Woolacombe, north Devon in unprecedented numbers, estimated up to 200 a square metre!
At Westwood Ho!, north Devon Velella are two or three inches (50 - 75 mm) thick on the shore.
c.18 September 2004
Several hundred By-the-wind Sailors arrived on the beach on the Isle of Islay, west Scotland. The flesh rotted away quite quickly.
16 September 2004
Velella were found on the shore between Newquay in Wales and Aberaeron with a length of 60 mm +. There was one every three metres or so around the rocks at Cei Bach thinning out in the sand areas. All were strikingly large compared to those I have found before in south Wales and Cornwall before. All had soft tissue and colour but were dead and disintegrating.
on Constantine Bay beach, north Cornwall
Photograph by Amanda Bertuchi
A huge mass stranding of By-the-wind Sailors,Velella velella, occurred all along the north Cornish coast from Sennen Cove (near land's End) up to Polzeath (near Padstow) and beyond. (As the gull flies this is a distance of 25+ miles and with all the coves and inlets the shoreline is over double this.) Coming in on the top of the tide, there were hundreds of millions* of them, all large, the largest I found was 85 mm, and all them were intact. Millions of Barnacles were washed up along the strandline.
(* Numbers not calculated. At Gwithian they formed a band 10 metres wide on the shore and stretching for over a mile. The above photograph understates the extent of the stranding.)
fascicularis,started coming in on the same tide as the Velella.
I've seen with my own eyes on Porthcothan (SW
8572), Treyarnon and Constantine and Paul
Gainey saw them on Gwithian, all in north
Cornwall. I'd be very surprised if they weren't all the way up the coast
and I'd number them in millions, all big. The Goose
in their usual quantity for this time of the year, if anything, less. To
give you an idea, on my beach, Pothcothan, 25 acres at low tide:
approximately one million, Buoy Barnacles:
2000+, Goose Barnacle
At least one Portuguese Man o'War, Physalia physalis, was also washed up and there were undoubtably more.
The Buoy Barnacles were attached to floats that they had secreted that had a texture like that expanding foam.
6 June 2003
Millions (literally) of By-the-Wind Sailors, Velella velella, (a jellyfish-like animal) are being washed up alive to perish on the shores of Cornwall, now reaching up the English Channel as far east as Polperro and Looe. All are a similar very small size, around 15 mm in length, and still have fleshy body parts attached.
4 June 2003
We have got loads of By-the-Wind Sailors, Velella velella, in the Fowey estuary, Cornwall, as far up as Wisemans reach. They are coming in by the bucket load. Lots were stranded on Readymoney beach and there were lots washing in the night. I haven't seen any Violet Sea Snails, but am going out on the water this morning so shall look out.
4 June 2003
I was on Charmouth beach in Dorset doing a little fossil hunting and suddenly found myself lying (best way to find tiny crinoids etc) in a wreck of tiny jellyfish. They had a bizarre transparent float and were a vivid blue being only around 25 to 30 mm long. These are By-the-Wind Sailors, Velella velella.
26 May 2003
Hundreds of By-the-Wind Sailors seen approximately half a mile SE of Guernsey, Channel Islands in the afternoon.
24 May 2003
Polurrian Beach, Mullion, Cornwall: I found hundreds of By-the-Wind Sailors, Velella velella, on the falling tide on Saturday and by the smell/remains they have been coming ashore for several days.
21 May 2003
Ray Lawman has reported to Ruth Williams that he there were about half a million Velella velella at "Soapy Cove" on the Lizard, Cornwall.
Thousands of tiny By-the-Wind
Velella velella, are coming
ashore on the Isles of Scilly . Porthlow on St. Mary's (Porthloo on maps) was
covered with them, most only about 10 mm in length with only the occasional
larger one, and the larger ones were very large at approx. 50 mm, with
none in-between. I don't think I have seen them either as big or as small
20 May 2003
Hundreds of By-the-Wind Sailors, Velella velella, (a jellyfish-like animal) are washed up on Sennen Cove, Cornwall.
Sennen Cove Wildlife Page
By-the-Wind Sailors, Velella velella, are being reported again in the sea and washed up on the strandline on the north Cornish shores and Salcombe Harbour, south Devon.
By 1 February 2003 the westerlies have blown plenty of By-the-Wind Sailor, Velella velella, and the Mauve Stinger, Pelagia noctiluca, on to Sennen Cove, Cornwall, above the high tide mark.
28 January 2003
Thousands of By-the-Wind Sailor, Velella velella, are discovered washed up, alive or very freshly dead, on Perranporth Beach, Cornwall, together with the Violet Snail, Janthina janthina, (two shells) that preys on Velella. This gastropod is rarely recorded in British seas even when there are large numbers of Velella stranded. It is always worth looking for this attractive and fragile shell.
Rory Goodall has also found large numbers of Velella, on Porthmeor Beach, St Ives, Cornwall.
15 November 2002
After the recent gales, further large numbers of freshly dead Velella are washed up on the Dorset (Studland) coast with over 50 counted in a stretch of strandline of 100 metres. The dead Velella were still coloured blue which showed that that they have only recently died. They disintegrate and turn white over night. There were live specimens at five miles off the Dorset coast.
9 June 2002
Large numbers of dead Velella along strandline of sandy beach at Kilmore Quay (SE Ireland). Estimated to be in excess of 300 Velella per metre of strandline for about 50 metres (= 15000). They were a bit dried out so must have been there for a few days.
15 November 2002
After the recent gales, further large numbers of freshly dead Velella are washed up on the Dorset (Studland) coast with over 50 counted in a stretch of strandline of 100 metres. The dead Velella were still coloured blue which showed that that they only recently dead. They disintegrate and turn white over night. There were live specimens at five miles off the Dorset coast.
6 December 2001
Report from Mr David Leggat.
Cadgwith Cove, the Lizard, Cornwall. Large (hundreds probably) numbers of the hydrozoans, By-the-wind Sailors Velella velella, between 2 and 7 cm in diameter washed up on this east facing shore.
Photograph by Richard Lord
9 October 1999
High up on Saline Beach near the slipway I found a By-the-wind sailor, Velella velella, in good condition. The pelagic colonial hydroid had most of its tentacles and was a vivid blue colour. Richard Lord (Guernsey).
Photograph by Richard Lord
Jon Makeham also discovered about 500 washed up Velella at Looe, southern Cornwall. This is a lesser number than in previous years.
are more records of stranded Velella in the BMLSS archives (before
1996 when computer records were collated for the web site entries). Notably,
mass strandings in 1992, reported by Amanda Young (Anglesey).
News Report 1999
Norwegian Marine ***
These web pages are recommended for photographs of Jellyfish
I found this jellyfish Rhizostoma octopusabout
200 metres up from river mouth of River
Dysynni, about two miles north of Tywyn
on mid Wales coast.
Report by Maria Wagland
8-9 August 2003
Whilst travelling out from Littlehampton marina, West Sussex, on Friday night, we passed four very large Rhizostoma octopus and counted 21 Compass Jellyfish, Chrysaora hysoscella, over a period of an hour.
On Saturday morning we went armed with cameras. Within 20 minutes we had found three Rhizostomas. The last two were close enough to see the juvenile fish swimming alongside. We dived with the third Rhizostoma for about 30 minutes. It stayed within the top 3 metres of water. We saw a third as we headed back to the marina on a different heading.
Link to the Image by Paul Parsons (Aquapix)
We also spotted eight Compass Jellyfish.
Photograph by Peter Glanvill (Dorset)
The sea was exceptionally clear and several large (40 cm + in diameter) Rhizostoma octopus were seen off Littlehampton.
6 August 2003
Doing a few boat transects today we saw absolutely loads of the jellyfish, Rhizostoma octopus off the Rhossilhi/Llangennith beach, Gower, south Wales and further into Carmarthen Bay. I'm not even going to attempt a number, but unless they were all stretched out in lines which corresponded exactly with our transects there must have been tens of thousands.
14 June 2003
A jellyfish with a bell diameter of 45 cm and one metre long was spotted in calm seas off Shoreham-by-Sea, Sussex, at 7:00 pm. It was creamy white with a pink-blue rim so it was almost certainly the Barrel Jellyfish, Rhizostoma octopus. These large jellyfish are only occasionally encountered off the Sussex coast.
28 August 2002
Helen Selvey of Polzeath Voluntary Marine Wildlife Area, has found those small 'green-eyed monsters' for which Paul Gainey has been seeking as he would like to photograph them. When she placed a large freshly-dead Root-mouth Jellyfish, Rhizostoma octopus in a vessel of seawater, from under it swam a few dozen specimens of a small 12 mm amphipod crustacean called Hyperia galba. They are always associated with one or other of the species of jellyfish, living under the shelter of the umbrella (often within the gonad cavities) where they are sought by some species of fish. There are only three records on the species database for Cornwall, the latest being 1928 with a 'Plymouth area' record for 1953. Of course not many people would look for them, but the influx of jellyfish represents a good opportunity - so please 'phone me on 01209 712069 if you find any and can keep them alive in a container in a cool place.
On 26 August 2002 a species of this jellyfish was seen at a depth of 6 metres over 15 metres of water at the Waldrons, off Littlehampton, Sussex.
We found four of these big blue jellyfish, Rhizostoma octopus, in August washed up on the shoreline of the River Teign between Newton Abbot and Teignmouth in Devon. My husband has size 9 feet, so you can tell they were pretty big!
19 July 2002
42 Rhizostoma octopus, carefully counted, were on the shore at Polkerris near Par, Cornwall, with 50 in the shallows. About the same time 30 were on Par Beach.
These were the top numbers beached, but elsewhere they were in up to ten on many Cornish shores. Offshore they were in large shoals but of course less easy to count.
But more that one person said they are present this year 'in hundreds if not thousands'.
23 June 2002
At least 15 Rhizostoma octopus jellyfish, ranging in size between about 10 cm to 60 cm in size were washed up on Studland beach in Dorset.
c. 26 December 2001
Isles of Scilly
Ren Hathway says that Scillonian fisherman, David Thompson, has been trawling up large numbers of the 'Root-mouth' Jellyfish Rhizostoma octopus, measuring up to a metre across.
There were also large numbers of Rhizostoma about in May. On the 14 May 1999 I recorded over thirty in the course of a forty minute dive. Unusually they were distributed throughout the water column; depth of seabed was 26 metres. Most years at around this time we expect to see half a dozen or so each dive but confined to the top 10 metres. Now, of course, they are dying off with the remains littering the seabed and forming a food source for a wide variety of species. We find them with urchins, Echinus esculentus, feeding on them along with the Common Starfish, Asterias rubens, and a variety of gastropods.
Photograph by Nikki Sheldon (EMail)
News ReportOctober 1995
9 June 1999
Six Barrel Jellyfish, Rhizostoma octopus, were washed up on the sandy beach at Ravenglass, Cumbria, in the north-west of England. The definitive dark blue ring around the base of the bell was present but did not show up on the photograph. This jellyfish does not have stinging tentacles like the similar looking Cyanea species, which are sometimes washed up on the same coast.
On 6 July 1999, I came across a Marthasterias wrapped around the remains of one (Rhizostoma) One unusual record was of a group of Metridium on an underwater cliff face that appeared to have captured an Aurelia, possibly a dying one that had drifted onto them. The grip by the Metridium colony was firm enough to hold it against water being wafted across it by a diver's hand. Presumably individuals were feeding but I cannot be sure of that.
On 27 June 1999, a fisherman reported seeing
many of the large jellyfish
Rhizostoma pulmo along the South Penwith
Cornish Marine Wildlife Reports 1999 (by Ray Dennis)
News: Barrel Jellyfish, Rhizostoma octopus , washed up on the Cumbrian coast. It was discovered stranded on the shore at Ravenglass, which is separated from the Isle of Man by the Irish Sea.
8 July 1999
A swimmer was reported stung by a jellyfish off Ryde on the north-east of the Isle of Wight. The species was not identified. (Colin Pope, IOW Council.)
The only published proven effective first aid treatment for the skin pain of jellyfish wounds is the use of cold packs or ice. Cold is applied to the stung area for 5-15 minutes then re-applied, if necessary. It will stop the skin pain in 98% of cases
Thousands of Moon Jellyfish reported from the
Pembokeshire coast of south Wales by Will
Thomas. "Also seen at least 5 jellyfish
that are shaped like an oblong bell, about 100 mm (3-4 inches) in length
and an electrical green glow passing up and down the centre, I have had
no luck in looking up the species so far."
It seems like a comb jelly (Ctenophora). AH.
Jellyfish discovered inverted on the Newcastle beach (Dundrum Bay), Co. Down, Northern Ireland
by Linda D'Arcy (October 2001)
I'm fairly sure I found a Lion's Mane Jellyfish washed up on the beach adjacent to Rosslare Harbour in County Wexford, Ireland in August 2002. I didn't photograph it but it was similar to the specimen which you display. It was dark red and seemed to be seeping blood. In fact, it looked like the internal organ of some creature and it was only when I turned it over that I was convinced it was a jelly fish.
Lion's Mane Jellyfish"The winds have been north-westerly and then north-easterly preceding the jellyfish strandings."
It is possible that the Lion's Mane Jellyfish, Cyanea capillata, have been recorded in large swarms of the Sussex coast in the past. The jellyfish were described as purple with long stinging tentacles, so they could have been the Portuguese Man-o-War, Physalia physalis. Lion's Mane are frequently described as purple in colour. (Brian)
I was stung by a Lions Mane jellyfish today while diving in Babbacombe, Devon in the summer of 2001. I was about 150 metres from shore at about 11:00 am. Depth, around 7 metres.
I looked up, saw tentacles in front of my face. Momentum carried me right into them. Hurt like nettles or a wasp sting. We treated it with malt vinegar (not recommended) and antihistamine cream. Pain subsided about 1 hour later. No marks remaining (12 hours later).
I hope this information is useful to you.
07754 398 512
Jellyfish Report from the Isle of Lewis, Outer Hebrides.
4 August 2002
Quite a few largish Compass Jellyfish, Chrysaora hysoscella, around just now (15 cm diameter) seen close to my local pier (West Loch Roag) - I saw six actively swimming ones in an area about 100 metres square.
More interesting is the reported death and destruction wrought on Salmon farms on the east coast of Lewis by small jellyfish clogging the salmon gills. A fish farmer claims its a foreign species introduced by ballast water, but I need to try and confirm this. Apparently they are 'solid down to 15 metres' so there must be a lot of them; allegedly the mortality is so great that local facilities for disposal are overwhelmed and they have to take them to Shetland for disposal!
Diver's are rarely stung by jellyfish in British seas because there is hardly any skin exposed: the water is too cold.
been stung a couple of times by Physalia (Portuguese Man
o'War) in the Azores. On one occasion I was swimming round a fishing
buoy where a detached tentacle was stuck, so the jellyfish itself was not
to be seen. It felt like a wasp sting but had no lasting effects. A small
rash appeared on my arm which lasted for a fortnight.
I was stung whilst diving off the Summer Isles (W Scotland) across the upper lip by a tentacle several feet in length belonging to
Lion's Mane Jellyfish well above me in the water, or so I thought! That too felt like a wasp sting or being thrown into a bed of nettles. Alarming at the time (40 ft deep) but no lasting effects.
Bill Farnham (Univ. of Portsmouth) (received September 1999)
4 August 2008
I discovered a Portuguese Man-o'-War, Physalia physalis, on Southsea seafront, Portsmouth, to the east of the pier. The sting on the palm of my hand was mild but persistent and still felt ten days afterwards.
A swimmer was reported stung by a jellyfish off
Ryde on the north-east of the Isle of Wight. The species was not identified.
(Colin Pope, IOW Council 1999)
PS: I have received one report from Wales of a child developing a rash after being stung by a small transparent jellyfish. AH.
(see the note below, click on this text).
A swimmer was stung whilst swimming off Norfolk,
(North Sea) and received medical treatment. The arm swelled up and felt
Report by Jane Fowler-Tutt.
A bright red weal depending on the length of the
tentacle or fragment. I've been stung by strands from a Portuguese Man
Physalia. All the marks were vivid & bright red, but
not necessarily raised. But all very sore.
A detached tentacle of Cyanea sp. (both
capillata & C. lamarckii were present) caught me across
the cheek and upper lip when I was diving in NW Scotland. It prickled like
a really bad nettle sting, painfully for about 24 hours.
Jane Lilley (Newdigate) (received September 1999)
Although the Canaries are not NE Atlantic we do
have a lot of cases of Jellyfish and Anemone stings. The wound of a jellyfish
tends to be very similar to the wound of stinging nettles. However the
Jellyfish sting tends to be more linear as opposed to the small white dotted
sting of the nettles.
The immediate surrounding skin surface also tends to swell gently and is slightly enflamed. The treatment is relatively simple as it involves rinsing the sting in fresh water and then gently but liberally dousing the sting with an anti inflammatory product which can generally be found in most supermarkets or chemists.
I have just returned from Brittany and found your
request which had been passed on via NERC. There is some information
on Jellyfish stings in: The Medusae of the British Isles , by F.S. Russell.
Published in two volumes by CUP in 1953 and 1970. Some details are
given under each species which is known to sting and there are quite a
lot of references to stings and their effects - F.S. Russell was
actually stung by a Lion's Mane on the Great Barrier Reef. The people
that I have seen stung in British waters have a long trail of what looks
like a very severe nettle rash.
I hope this is of some help.
Gerald T. Boalch
Although it is more an anecdotal story, I recently
made an interesting experience in the variability of the individual response
to jellyfish stings.
While swimming in the Mediterranean, my daughter (7) and I (41) were simultaneously stung by the same individual of Pelagia noctiluca. The surface of the burns was comparable (legs and arms) and the initial reaction was identical: pain, blistering (urticae), swellings etc. We treated the sting with an antihistaminic (Fenistil jelly). My daughter's burns were completely gone after 2 hours and did not re-appear. However, my stings persisted for nearly 10 days, itched incredibly, and the tissue
became necrotic in the end (lost skin). The surrounding tissue was swollen and hot for several days.
It was the first sting my daughter experienced, while I have been stung quite often by Cnidarians (Pelagia, Millepora, Aglaophenia, Physalia, Pennaria (it stings!), partly accidentally, partly experimental). So I concluded that most likely also previous exposure can determine the reaction to cnidarian stings.
Dr Peter Schuchert Hydrozoa worldwide
Museum of Natural History
Dept. of Invertebrates
1, route de Malagnou
I've been stung by a Physalia (Portuguese Man o'War) in the Mediterranean, one tentacle hit across the back, and the wound looked and felt much like I guess a whiplash must, a neat line, perhaps 3 mm wide, extending from my neck to the hem of my swimming trunks.
Unidentified sting from a jellyfish (or sea anemone)?
Last week (June 2002) my daughter was in the sea
off the coast of Northern France at Berck-sur-mer, we think that she was
stung by a jelly-fish. There were 100's of 50 pence piece size clear 'jelly-fish'
left on the beach as the tide went out as well
as in the shallow water.
Having been in the sea she appeared with two weals across her shoulder and back around these the skin was very red and angry looking, it was hot and sore to touch. She also had slight blistering spotting across her back around the mark. After about a week the patch of skin eventually blistered up and then peeled, the two weals being the last to heal as the wound seemed to have gone deeper here. Ten days later her skin still looks very raw and has darker patches across the wound.
My daughter is 9, she was playing in water that was at the maximum about 2 feet deep, it was a sandy beach with no rockpools etc., we didn't see any other sea creatures such as anemones. The beach is in a fairly big tourist resort and was full of people however very few were in the sea - it was early evening when we were there.
We didn't realise Molly had been stung - it didn't hurt at the time but was only sore afterwards.
The jelly-fish were translucent whitish with slightly dark segment marks.
This injury could have been caused by the Snakelocks
Anemone (from rocky shores and shallow seas).
9 November 2003
Recently spotted a Lion's mane in Key Largo Florida. Bell was approx 2 ft in diameter and tentacles were at least 25 - 30 ft long.. It stung a number of divers. don't know if you're collecting this info or if its helpful, just found your email on a link while researching what we had found. don't hesitate to contact me if you have a need for more questions.
PADI MSDT 83683
On the Cnidaria Discussion Group
Thanks for the reply. We holidayed in Greece last June (2005) and my youngest daughter (6) had a bad sting. She had a very mild one with tentacle lines that faded in a day the first week of our holiday. However int he second week she was playing in the shallows - the first part of which is all rocky. She was pulling herself along through the rocks on all fours. She came running up the beach screaming and the 'tentacle' lines where immediatly visible on her leg. I had antihistamine tablets on me and immediatly gave her one and we took her to first aid where they applied a general sting lotion/jelly. The lines had immediatly turned a dark purple on her leg. Over the next few days they became raised very sore and split open. We had to see a doctor as the area became red/hot and inflamed and was obviously infected. She was given antibiotic cream which didn't have much effect. On our return to Engaland we took her to the doctor who gave her oral antibiotics. By the time the main wound was raw, open and all the wounds looked like she'd been slashed with a knife. The main wound was about 4-5mm deep open flesh. The doctor described it as looking like a chemical burn.
It still didn't heal that well and she had to go on a second course of stronger antibiotics and eventually it healed - over the next couple of months.
Shes been left with a largish purplish scar where the deepest wound was - about 2 cm in length - and faint white scars where the other lines/tentacles were.
The odd thing was that we never saw any jellyfish at all - and neither did anyone else there - including staff. The rocky area is under water, about 2ft wide and you walk over it as you walk out to sea - its then all sand - this is covered in lots of coral looking 'stuff'!
We're returing to the same place this year - at the same time!! - and I'm just curious as to what it was. Could it have been anything other than a jellyfish (urchin perhaps) - we didn't see any of these either but it was the wavy tentacle lines on her that made us think it was a jellyfish. There was nothing in the wound when she came out of the sea.
I'd be really interested to know what you
Thanks for your help
I think this is probably the jellyfish immediately
had an unfortunate encounter with Pelagia at the Azores a
couple of years ago, while swimming.
Although I only slightly came in contact with the tentacles
of the jellyfish (on my chest), the sting was VERY painful. It could
be described as a whiplash (although I cannot say that I have been whiplashed
before...). At the beginning of May, some beaches in the south of
France had been closed for swimming for a short while, because of the
presence of this jellyfish (probably often the case in the Mediterranean).
23 June 2003
I plucked one straight from the sea and held it in my hand for ten minutes and it had no effect whatsoever. Mass stranding on the N.Cornish coast
The sting from Pelagia can be terrible.
My daughter (aged 6 at the time) was stung on her thigh in Yugoslavia.
She was in agony for a couple of hours and had a scar on her leg which
you could still see after 10 years. I know of a similar case with a young
child which resulted in lasting scars.
I have seen Pelagia many times in the Med. where it is not uncommon to close beaches because of their presence. Also have seen them in good numbers off W. Ireland. I have put a picture in the (appropriate?) album.
Treatment of Stings
The only published proven effective first aid treatment for the skin pain of jellyfish wounds is the use of cold packs or ice. Cold is applied to the stung area for 5-15 minutes then re-applied, if necessary. It will stop the skin pain in 98% of cases.
"The most useful preparation for a jellyfish sting is hydrocortisone cream"
Although this may be of benefit in a delayed allergy
to jellyfish venom, which occasionally occurs with cubozoans and very rarely
in other species, it has not yet been statistically proven to help the
toxic venom effect of a cnidarian sting. Delayed allergy to a jellyfish
stings usually occurs some 10-16 days after the initial sting and is usually
heralded by the re-appearance of the jellyfish tentacle marks which are
However, cortisone based creams are weak and often ineffective and ultra-potent steroid creams, or preferably oral prednisone is much more effective (Williamson et al 1996). Hydrocortisone cream in the early sting may also suppress the inflammatory response and allow infection, which does not respond to "usual" antibiotics used for skin infections (Williamson et al 1996), it has never been proven to give any benefit in published journals on randomised or double blind treatment trials.
The only published proven effective first aid
treatment for the skin pain of jellyfish wounds is the use of cold packs
or ice. Cold is applied to the stung area for 5-15 minutes then re-applied,
if necessary. It will stop the skin pain in 98% of cases (Exton et al 198
). Heat makes the envneomation worse (Williamson et al 1996). Other plant
extracts and many other chemical
reagents have been suggested to stop the skin pain but there are no double blinded or randomised trials to prove their claims. Vinegar is only useful, but very effective, for preventing further discharge and removing adherent tentacles after cubozoan stings (Williamson et al 1996). It may make other stings worse (Fenner and Fitzpatrick 1986, Fenner et al 1993) and should
not be used.
Other symptoms, including systemic symptoms are dealt with in the usual manner by qualified medical practitioners.
I would be happy to answer other questions on
the treatment of jellyfish
Exton DR, Fenner PJ, Williamson JAH. 1989. Ice packs: an effective first aid treatment for Physalia and other painful jellyfish stings. Med J Aust 151: 625-626.
Fenner PJ, Fitzpatrick PF. 1986. Experiments with the nematocysts of Cyanea capillata Med J Aust 145: 174.
Fenner PJ, Williamson JA, Burnett JW, Rifkin J. 1993. First aid treatment of jellyfish stings in Australia: response to a newly differentiated species. Med J Aust 158: 498-501.
Williamson JA, Fenner PJ, Burnett JW, Rifkin J, editors. Venomous and poisonous marine animals: a medical and biological handbook. Surf Life Saving Australia and University of New South Wales Press Ltd, Sydney, 1996.
Dr Peter Fenner
National Medical Officer
Surf Life Saving Australia
Williamson JA, Fenner PJ, Burnett JW,
Rifkin J, editors. Venomous and poisonous marine animals: a medical and
Surf Life Saving Australia and University of New South Wales Press Ltd, Sydney, 1996.
Dr Peter Fenner
National Medical Officer
Surf Life Saving Australia
inhibits the firing mechanism for the nematocysts of every cubozoan
tested to date. Chirodropids usually have adherent tentacles that are torn
off and remain on the skin. The longer they remain on the skin, the greater
the envneomation as more nematocysts fire. Vinegar prevents this. However,
vinegar causes all (most?) of the nematocysts of Cyanea to discharge
and in some Physalia species (approx. 30% of the Pacific P. physalis)
- I subscribe to two species, P. utriculus, single tentacle and
common in Australia, and P. physalis, multi-tentacled, (medium size
in the Pacific, smaller than the Atlantic species that has caused 2 deaths).
I haven't tested other species but would be interested in the input of
> Peter Fenner
All of the nematocyst venoms studied thus far
are mixtures of proteins.
Hence, the superficial rationale for papain. On the other hand, it is not apparent why papain should be efficacious, since papain can neither penetrate the undischarged nematocyst capsule to hydrolyse the venom contained within, nor can it get into the skin to reach the venom injected from the discharged nematocysts. The best that I can figure is that papain may (?) help to inactivate undischarged nematocysts and cnidocytes still adhering to the skin, thereby helping to prevent any sustained stinging subsequent the initial contact between the skin and the tentacles.
Anyone else have any ideas? How about Joe Burnett?
Dept. of Physiology and Pharmacology
School of Medicine
Loma Linda University
Loma Linda, CA 92350
Hot water is reported in a single test showed hot water to increase the sting pain at first but afford permanaent relief after 20 minutes.
Press Report (click on this text)
Other stings and irritants (British seas only):
Stings from Sea Anemones (SW Britain)
Sting Pain Index
Beware of the Weever
Dogger Batch Itch file
Electric Ray, Sting Ray, Whiteweed and other hydroids, Alcyonidium (a bryozoan) = "Dogger Bank Itch", King Ragworm, fine needle diatoms of the Nitzschia type, + others.
Even the Blenny can draw blood and the Velvet
Swimming Crab can surprise the rockpooler with
the suddenness of the nip which does not prove to be dangerous. Any fish
with sharp teeth can cause an injury.
Jellyfish Sting Newsletter
Selected extracts of the pages:
Number 7 July, 1992
Kokelj F, Stinco G, Del Negro P. Dermatotoxicity of the Adriatic jellyfish. G Ital Dermatol Venereol 1990; 125:575-577. Published in Italian. Unique identifier: 91224687
The toxicity of purified nematocysts preparations from Aurelia aurita, Chrysaora hysoscella and Rhizostoma pulmo was studied in 25 volunteers by a scratch-patch test. Low amounts of dermatotoxicity was demonstrated and this testing could be used as a measure to purify active preparations from the venom.
Kokelj F. Contact dermatitis due to the Adriatic Sea jellyfish. Presented to the 2nd Congress of the European Academy of Dermatology and Venerology, Athens, October, 1991.
Ten different species of Sciphomedusae are present in the Adriatic but only four were found to be dermotoxic: Pelagia noctiluca, Aurelia aurita, Rhizostoma pulmo and Chrysaora hysoscella
Queruel P., Bernard P., and Dantzer E. Severe cutaneous envenomation by the Mediterranean jellyfish Pelagia noctiluca. Vet. Human Toxicol. 1996;38:460.
Pelagia noctiluca is an endemic Mediterranean jellyfish appearing in abundance every 10 or 12 years. During these proliferations, when the swarms of medusae come to the beach, envenomations increase significantly. Generally, the stings produced minor cutaneous reactions such as erythematous and pruriginous eruptions, but some lesions were more dramatic or envenomations in the form of "burns." All these patients had a history of previous minor stings by Pelagia. None of the patients had general symptoms when stung. Post inflammatory pigmentation lasted several months but resolved spontaneously.
Paul Cornelius of London has relayed to my Australian friends that Aurelia around the UK is capable of inducing human skin pain.
Faisal Radwan of Egypt, wrote that Aurelia aurita from the Red Sea can sting human skin.
Exton, DR, Fenner, PJ and Williamson, JA. Cold packs: effective topical
analgesia in the treatment of painful stings by Physalia and other
jellyfish. Med J Aust 151:625-626, 1989.
In this study cold packs taken from household freezers were applied to the envenomated area for 5 to 10 minutes then reapplied for additional similar periods if the pain had not subsided. One hundred and forty-three patients were studied, 16 of whom had severe, 45 moderate and 82 mild pain. Good results were achieved and the only significant failures were in the severe pain group (25%). However, the severe pain from Chironex envenomations were not effectively treated by this maneuver in two instances
We have reviewed the known lethalities from Physalia physalis
and have uncovered in newspaper clippings two more teenagers who died in
the 1970's. These, added to the three already described in medical journals,
brings the total to five.
to Dive Medicine
Handbook of Clinical Toxicology of Animal Venoms and Poisons
Editors - Jürg Meier, University of Basel, Switzerland and Julian White, State Toxicology Services, South Australia , University of Adelaide Medical School, State Poisons Information Center, South Australia, Australia
International Conference on Jellyfish Blooms
'A Scientific and Societal Agenda'
12-14 January, 2000
Gulf Shores, Alabama
Plankton Blooms (includes Jellyfish) in the Times 30/7/99
Understanding Jellyfish in the Irish Sea
Norwegian Marine ***
These web pages are recommended for photographs of Jellyfish
Cnidarian Page (with jellyfish-like animals)
A few Extra Notes
IMAGES on flickr
of British Cnidarians
Cnidarians of the World
Marine Wildlife Reports 1999 (by Ray Dennis)