Photograph by Wayne Curtis (Sunderland)
Common off the west coast of Scotland and in the northern North Sea.
Every year they are stranded on the shore and against salmon cages off
west Scotland. Off north-east England the occurrence on the shore is dependent
on easterly winds, but they seem to occur in most years.
As you go further south their frequency decreases, but they occur off both the Welsh coast (west) and Yorkshire coast (east) regularly.
Do they occur in the Irish Sea? Yes, at least one BMLSS record.
Recorded as far south as Lundy (Bristol Channel).
Records in the English Channel are unusual. Do they occur, how often?
Books say the sting is powerful (Hayward & Ryland) but frequently the sting is innocuous. However, divers who have been stung in the face report it like a wasp sting, and a diver who got stung in the eye was treated for an abscess.
Loch Fyne (External Site)
No common name: Norwegians call it Blue Jellyfish, or Bluefire
Photograph by Trevor McDonald (Aberdeen)
It has the same distribution in British seas as Cyanea capillata but is not nearly as common. Both Cyanea jellyfish will occur together sometimes. Common off Scotland. Recorded as far south as Lundy (Bristol Channel) and around the southern coast of Cornwall.
Most reports say it is innocuous. Not enough information, but probably similar to Cyanea capillata.
We have at least one report of loose strands of tentacles of this jellyfish
can sting sensitive sting (Peter Glanvill)
7 July 2014
Thousands of jellyfish were washed ashore at Polzeath, north Cornwall. Easily over a thousand Bluefire Jellyfish, Cyanea lamarckii; up to a hundred Moon Jellyfish, Aurelia aurita, and two juvenile Compass Jellyfish, Chrysaora hysoscella, were noted. A few of the Bluefire Jellyfish must have been about 35 cm diameter, but most were much smaller, with lots of very juvenile specimens.
Hundreds of jellyfish were seen off Sandgate, Kent. They were about 12 cm in diameter but have not yet been positively identified. This could be the species Cyanea lamarckii.
Universität zu Köln
Zoologie: I. Lehrstuhl
-- Claudia is right -- not about the seat of the pants thing, but about
the C. lamarckii. Bad specimen but unmistakable nonetheless.
Department of Integrative Biology
U.C. Museum of Paleontology
University of California
Berkeley, CA 94720 USA
Three Bluefire Jellyfish, Cyanea lamarkii, were washed up at Eccles-on-sea, Norfolk.
Report and Photograph by Neil Bowman
Report and Photographs by Aaron Husain
Whilst walking along the beach at Seasalter, Kent, there were a lot of seemingly dead Moon Jellies and beautiful purple flower like Cyanea lamarkii jellies washing up on the beach. Probably saw 100 or so along a quarter mile stretch of beach. I just wondered what may have killed them? The place I saw them is where the 'Swale' meets the North Sea... They were almost certainly washed on to the shore with tides, currents and offshore winds.
I spotted loads of jellyfish at a beach on the Lleyn Peninsula in north Wales. Mostly they were Moon Jellyfish, but there were also some as shown in the photograph on the left. The diameter of the bell was about 25 mm. These were probably Bluefire Jellyfish, Cyanea lamarckii.
Report and Photograph by David Meiklejohn
A Bluefire Jellyfish, Cyanea lamarckii, was found in the shallows at Shoreham Beach, West Sussex.
Spring (probably June) 2005
This specimen of the Blue Jellyfish, Cyanea lamarckii, was washed ashore on the Isle of Man with half a dozen Moon Jellyfish, Aurelia aurita.
30 July 2002
Over the past five weeks during shore surveys on the west coast of Scotland, two specimens of the Blue Jellyfish, Cyanea lamarcki were seen: in the Sound of Jura and near Loch Ewe in Wester Ross. Both were under 10 cm in diameter and a vivid blue. Today, a report reached me of a diver who was stung on the wrist off the island of Canna, probably by this species, and spent two and a half painful days in hospital. This species is much more unpleasant than the common reddish-brown Lion's Mane Jellyfish, Cyanea capillata, and seems to be much less common.
A jellyfish was discovered alive in a rockpool on Worm's Head, the "wurm"-shaped rock island connected at low tide by a causeway to the western end of the Gower peninsular at the southern end of Rhossili Bay in south Wales. By comparing the size of the periwinkle in the pool the viewer can see the size is about 100 mm in diameter. The jellyfish has been identified as the Blue Jellyfish, Cyanea lamarckii. Inverted the jellyfish was white underneath. It quickly righted itself.
Cnidarian Mailing List
Common names not often used include:
Barrel Jellyfish, Football Jellyfish, Root-mouthed Jellyfish.
Photograph by Paul Parsons
abundant in the Irish Sea. Occurs all around the British Isles, and is
common off the west coasts, e.g. Cornwall.
Full distribution details not collated. On file somewhere.
Occurrence in eastern English Channel and southern North Sea may be infrequent as no reports are on file.
Reported not to sting at all. However, I may have one record, so like other innocuous animals and plants the sting can be felt through broken skin and will cause a rash in the sensitive.
Photograph by David Hall
This jellyfish is sometimes called the Common Jellyfish. This name could be misleading and be given to the jellyfish that are common in a particular area, so it would be best to discourage the use of this name.
Abundant of all British coasts, more often seen on the west coast when
in is blown inshore, but it will go through its life cycle in shallow water
and even harbours. Most reports come in from the Bristol Channel and south
Wales, but it may be so familiar elsewhere that it is not worth a mention.
In the eastern English Channel, there may be some years when it is not abundant. This may be just inshore waters. It was rarely seen from the shore off Sussex from 1980 to 1990 (e.g. not seen in 200 visits to the shore, and 60 dives). It is found in harbours and brackish water.
It has been long regarded as innocuous. However, there has been more
than one report in British seas of this species causing a rash (from my
records) and even pain (Paul Cornelius). Other reports are of itching and
distinct reddening of the skin by skin divers swimming through a swarm.
Thousands of Moon Jellyfish, Aurelia aurita, were washed ashore at Westward Ho! north Devon. And probably in other places on the rocky shore facing the Atlantic Oceans. It was a prelude to numerous strandings all around the British coasts, depending on which way the wind was blowing.
The other name of Sea Nettle, I have never heard used and it is not so descriptive.
Photograph by Steve Barker (Shoreham-by-Sea 1979)
All around the British Isles. Not in the large swarms of other jellyfish and often seen singly. It is uncommon, or rare, off the Scottish coast.
7 August 1998
Hundreds of Compass Jellyfish, Chrysaora hysoscella, were seen 3 miles off Torbay.
Unknown from the BMLSS records. Otherwise reports are of it as a stinger
and as harmless.
I am wary of using foreign records, because the Pacific reports may be of a similar looking but different species.
29 July 2001
There were a considerable number of Compass Jellyfish, Chrysaora hysoscella, off Hallsands Beach, south Devon. I counted well over a hundred. There was also a small (25 cm across) Cyanea which was bright blue, it could have been Cyanea lamarcki due to its size, colour and lack of sting (I brushed past it whilst swimming).
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
PS: These are probably Mauve Stingers, Pelagia noctiluca.
9-10 August 2003
Whilst travelling out from Littlehampton marina, West Sussex, on Friday night, we passed four very large Rhizostoma pulmo 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.
We also spotted 8 Compass Jellyfish.
9 September 2006
Steve Trewhella and Julie Hatcher found about sixteen Compass Jellyfish, Chrysaora hysoscella, washed up on the beach at Sandymouth Bay, near Bude in north Cornwall.
galba on a Compass
from the Channel Islands
Photographs © by Richard Lord (Guernsey)
A number of these contained the symbiotic amphipod crustacean Hyperia galba alive inside them. These are remarkable little creatures with large green eyes, and as adults they are only found in jellyfish.
Off the west coast of Britain in some years. Unpredictably frequency.
May occur for several years in a row then absent for some years, perhaps
five, perhaps more. CBRU will have records. Channel Islands coast as well
in 1999 and probably other years.
Careful with erroneous reports with this species.
Reported to be fierce, but not always. Certainly painful if the diver is caught in the face. Leaves a weal that fades after a few days. It has caused two deaths.
Mid September 2017
Photograph by Martin Cavell
Portuguese Man-o'-War, Physalia physalis, have been washed up on widespread western shores from the Isles of Scilly to Scotland. Beware of the venomous tentacles that still produce a severe sting even when stranded ashore. Hundreds of this venomous siphonophore were washed up on the sandy beach at Sennen Cove, Cornwall.
We were able to visit the upper part of Hannafore
Beach, Looe, on Friday 10 January 1998
in the immediate aftermath of the storms, and to mange a couple of hours
rockpooling further down the reef during during the low spring tide (which
was not as low as predicted, probably due to the sustained winds).
(Photograph by Jane Herbert, Editor of the Cornwall Wildlife Trust site)
Portuguese Men o'War: Further Information on the Cornwall Wildlife Trust site.
The foreshore and strandline were
strewn with an extraordinary number of empty mollusc shells of many species,
a rough count putting the density at several thousand per square metre.
Large numbers (several hundred) of By-the-Wind Sailors, Velella
velella, were cast up, both as complete dead specimens and as dried
sails, together with a couple of Portuguese Man-o'War, Physalia
physalis, which were badly damaged and without their stinging tentacles.
A prolonged search did not reveal any specimens of the pelagic snail Janthina
janthina which preys on these colonial hydroids (both Velella and
are not true jellyfish).
String Jellyfish Apolemia uvaria
Also known as the Pearl-chain Jellyfish, this species is increasingly seen by divers off the south-west of England, Wales and Ireland. It forms long strings that can be several metres long. This is a mid-water oceanic species seen near the coast in the proximity to deep water only. This species can sting sensitive human skin.
2 October 2011
A pelagic string, probably the Agalma elegans, was seen at Evie Bay, Orkney Islands, Scotland.
Photograph by Steve Trewhella
Off the west coast of Britain in some, or most? years. Unpredictable frequency. Reports in almost all years, but the very large swarms (armada) washed up may occur perhaps twice a decade, on one occasion in successive years.
None, I have heard of.
Small Oceanic Medusae
This one can attain a diameter of 20 mm.
Please consult specialised texts for more information
on the small deep water medusae.
7 August 2002
An invasion of tiny (12-15 mm) jellyfish has killed about 900 thousand Salmon at two fish farms in Loch Erisort on the Isle of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides. The offending deadly organism travelling like large 15 metre deep clouds through the sea have been identified as the narcomedusan Solmaris corona, and also identified three other hydromedusans that were abundant in the blooms as Phialidium, Leuckartiara octona and Catablema vesicarium.
These oceanic species will not be listed in the popular guides. The Narcomedusae are gelatinous hydrozoans, abundant at depths between 100 and 1000 metres, an area known as the midwater. These rarely seen jellyfish are most easily recognized by the unique location of their primary tentacles. Unlike other jellyfish, the tentacles of the Narcomedusae originate well above the bell margin. These tentacles are often held in front of the jellyfish as it swims through the midwater. They feed on zooplankton.
They have been recorded in the north-eastern Atlantic Ocean but they are rarely mentioned.
The Crystal Jelly : Aequora vitrina is a mesmerising hydroid medusa, often found floating in the water column. It's incredibly fragile yet manages to survive the rough seas surrounding Cornwall and can be found quite often during summer months.
A Crystal Jelly, Aequorea species was discovered in the surface waters around Birsay, Orkney Islands, Scotland.
The prevalence of this seldom recorded species of hydromedusan is not known.
Cornish Report (Aphtomarine)
These are sessile species without a medusae stage.
When a medusa swims, how is the bell refilled with water after a contraction? Is the refilling done passively with the surrounding water pressure, or can the jellyfish do anything actively to hurry up the process?
Karin Nordström (Zoologiska Institutionen,
Lunds Universitet, Helgonav. 3, 223 62 Lund, Sweden)
046-222 93 40
The bell is passively refilled due to the ambient pressure of the
Terry L. Peard, Ph.D. (Indiana Univ. of PA)
For jellyfish that I am familiar with (the
hydromedusa) refilling is passive in the sense that muscles are not directly
involved. However during the contraction phase energy is stored in elastic
fibres in the jelly of the bell which are stretched as the bell becomes
thicker. Then when the swimming muscles relax this energy is released by
the bell returning to its hemispherical shape and the jelly thinning.
This draws in water through the velar opening, thus the shortening elastic
fibres create a negative pressure in the bell cavity during refilling.
This has been described by Bill Gladfelter for Polyorchis (sorry
the ref is not at hand but I believe it was Biol. Bull about 1978).
Others have more recently worked on the inertial forces involved with masses
of water being transported in the bell cavity and the vortices induced.
Andy Spencer (Bamfield Marine Station, Canada).
The idea seems to be that the jelly layer in
the middle is of different thicknesses and stiffnesses. The stiff,
thick stuff is in plates, separated by "hinges" of narrow bands of thinner,
softer material. This allows the animal to retain a shape while being
deformed by the contraction of the swimming muscles. Then when the
muscles relax, the
elastic rebound of the jelly skeleton pulls the animal back into the more flattened, umbrella shape. And this shape has a larger enclosed volume.
So the water is sucked back into the umbrella passively.
There's an old paper by William Gladfelter on this. I can't remember where.
biomechanics of jellyfish medusa swimming 1991
Mauve Stingers, Pelagia noctiluca, have been reported around the Scottish isles of Eigg and Skye, but the numbers are not known.
21 November 2007
A massive swarm of billions of jellyfish known as Mauve Stingers, Pelagia noctiluca, covering several square miles and to a depth of 11 metres, wiped out Northern Ireland's only Salmon farm, killing more than 100,000 fish at Northern Salmon Co. Ltd. The Salmon were kept in two large nets about a mile off the coast of the Glens of Antrim, north of Belfast. The Salmon hatchery is on Glenarm River deep within the Castle Estate and the smolt are transferred by helicopter to pens in Glenarm Bay. The extent and size of the jellyfish swarm was unprecedented.
Pelagia is more typical of warmer waters but does regularly occur in County Cork, Irish waters during October-December when it is carried up here via the Jet Current (a current that runs up along the Bay of Biscay and off the west coast of Ireland). So its not unusual to see Pelagia in the late autumn. However, it is probably unusual to see such numbers and such widespread occurrence i.e. offshore, west + north coast of Ireland and now Scotland (do you know where in Scotland they are washing up?). How far they head north depends on the strength of the Jet current, which varies from year to year, and so is probably very strong this year. There are records of Pelagia washing up in large numbers off the coast of Ireland going back 100 years (Delap sisters), more recent reports off the west coast of Ireland (1998), and in the mid 1960s, enormous numbers were reported in the Irish Sea.
16 November 2007
I found a dead Triggerfish, Balistes capriscus, on Balnakeil Beach by Durness (north coast of Scotland) last week, washed up following recent gales. It came in with thousands of little jellyfish. These jellyfish were very small and blew away quickly on the wind.
These were Mauve Stingers, Pelagia noctiluca. (AH)
3 November 2007
Whilst surfing we had to come in because a shoal of jellyfish engulfed us. They were about an inch across with little on no hanging tentacles; they were purple/ blue in colour and numbered in their thousands. Surfing at Hornish Point, South Uist, Outer Hebrides, Scotland at 57-24N 07-24 W
Photographs of Pelagia noctiluca by Darrell Campbell
sting was a bit nippy but not as bad as the larger brown jellyfish we normally
get and they made me come out in a raised rash on my hands and face which
stung long after I was dry also the sting (thankfully) did not return when
I showered later that day.
The next day there were a few washed in on the beach 57-40N 07-21W a considerable distance from where the shoal was, there were none in the water.
I have never seen this type of jellyfish in 15 years surfing in Uist, never mind the thousands that we saw that day.
These were Mauve Stingers, Pelagia noctiluca. (AH)
12 January 1995
A dead Triggerfish, Balistes capriscus, was found washed up at Harlyn Bay SW8775, Cornwall, together with a large number of small jellyfish which were identified as Pelagia noctiluca.
Cornish Marine Life Records (Ray Dennis) 1995
Beautiful but if a not deadly jellyfish, the Mauve Stinger, Pelagia noctiluca, can impart a nasty sting to the unlucky swimmer. They are now being seen around the Channel Islands. I found one stranded in a rock pool by Lithou Island on the east coast of Guernsey on 7 April, 2004 and another stranded in a rock pool on the east coast south of St. Peter Port on 8 April 2004. Strandings of this jellyfish seem to occur often in spring around these islands. They are not common around the rest of the British Isles but there are reports in some years off the south and west coasts, especially off Cornwall.
Rare. Swarms washed up about once a decade on the Cornish coast. CBRU have records. Not checked yet. One BMLSS record from Lundy (Bristol Channel).
There was a mass stranding of 500+ Mauve Stingers (small jellyfish), Pelagia noctiluca, at Porthcothan, Cornwall. This is the most unusual of the British species of pelagic jellyfish to wash up, but large swarms occur in years of abundance.
Amongst the Sea Rocket, Orache etc, on the strandline, a Peanut Plant has taken root.
Large numbers of pelagic scyphozoan Pelagia noctiluca, the Mauve Stinger (small jellyfish), were spotted all along the east coast of Lundy, Bristol Channel. I was participating in an English Nature drop-down video survey and found dense shoals of this beautiful pelagic jellyfish. The density was probably in the region of 15 to 20 individuals per square metre at the surface.
NB: Swarms of this jellyfish are unusual in British seas.
28 January 2003
Exceptionally, between 100 and 200 of the small jellyfish called Pelagia noctiluca, the Mauve Stinger or 'Nightlight' jellyfish were also discovered. These swarms seems to occur about every five or ten years, and is easily recognised by the pustules that cover the small (rarely more that 75 mm across) dome or umbrella.
Despite being a small jellyfish, it has a reputation as a stinger, in the Mediterranean.
Reuters News Report 25 August 1999
This is an extract I found as a News Report on the Reuters Environment site.
But the snake-like venom of the Pelagia noctiluca - the jellyfish glows a purple yellow in the sea at night - can in rare cases cause life threatening allergic reactions such as anaphylactic shock.
However, no such cases have been reported this summer and usually a quick dousing with alcohol or vinegar is enough to calm a sting from the jellyfish which commonly measures 10 cm (four inches) in diameter and has eight tentacles dangling below.
Go to Treatment of Stings
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.
Sting Pain Index
Avian, M. 1986. Temperature influence on in vitro
reproduction and development
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Goy, J. 1984. Climatic fluctuations of the jellyfish
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Goy, J., P. Morand, et al. 1989. Long-term fluctuations
of Pelagia noctiluca
(Cnidaria, Scyphomedusa) in the western Mediterranean Sea. Prediction by
climatic variables. Deep-Sea Res. 36(2): 269-279.
Larson, R. J. 1987. A note on the feeding, growth,
and reproduction of the
epipelagic Scyphomedusa Pelagia noctiluca (Forskal). Biol. Oceanogr. 4:
Malej, A. 1989. Behaviour and trophic ecology
of the jellyfish Pelagia
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Morand, P., C. Carre, et al. 1987. Feeding and
metabolism of the jellyfish
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Zavodnik, D. 1987. Spatial aggregations of the
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BUECHER, E., J. GOY, B. PLANQUE, M. ETIENNE and S. DALLOT, 1997. Long-term fluctuations of Liriope tetraphylla in Villefranche Bay between 1966 and 1993 compared to Pelagia noctiluca pullulations. Oceanol. Acta, 20 (1) : 145-158.
CATALANO, G., M. AVIAN and R. ZANELLI, 1985. Influence of salinity on the behaviour of Pelagia noctiluca (Forskal) (Scyphozoa, Semaeostomeae). Obelia, 11 (N.S.): 169-179.
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MALEJ, A., 1982. Unsual occurence of Pelagia noctiluca in the Adriatic Sea. I. Some notes on its biology. Acta Adriat., 23 : 97-102.
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MORAND, P., 1989. La méduse Pelagia noctiluca en Méditerranée Occidentale : de la dynamique de population aux variations à long terme. PhD Thesis. University of Pierre and Marie Curie. Paris.
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ROTTINI-SANDRINI, L. and M. AVIAN, 1983. Biological cycle of Pelagia noctiluca : morphological aspects of the development from planula to ephyra. Mar. biol., 74 : 169-174.
ROTTINI-SANDRINI, L., G. CATALANO and M. AVIAN, 1983. the effect of N-urea on the behavior of Pelagia noctiluca (Forskal). Rapp. Comm. int. Mer Médit., 29 (9) : ??
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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
Cornish Marine Wildlife Reports 1999 (by Ray Dennis)
Moon Jellyfish and Jellyfish page 1