A single rose can be my garden ... a single friend, my world.

~ Leo Buscaglia ~

Jellyfish Anyone?

February 6th, 2014 ~ Est. reading time: 1 min, 46 secs

Some jellyfish aren't quite cute.

Some jellyfish aren’t quite cute.

You wouldn’t expect a jellyfish to get very big but a family in the next area down from us here in Hobart found a doozy.

Not only is it enormous but it’s also a new species. Yet, if it weren’t for the Lim family who spotted it while taking a walk along the Howrah foreshore, it would have gone unnoticed.

Measuring 5 feet (1.5m) wide, it really is a whopper and represents one of the largest jellyfish ever found (the largest specimen recorded was 7 and a half feet (2.3m) wide when it was discovered, washed up in Massachusetts Bay back in 1870).

These creatures truly are strange. Possessing no heart or brain they definitely stretch the layperson’s definition of what an animal is. Yet, as it stands, these peculiar creatures are becoming an increasingly common sight wherever waters have been overfished.

Whilst various Asian people readily eat dried jellyfish, they aren’t a particularly popular dish elsewhere. Plus, increased populations of jellyfish can pose a threat to young fish stocks and even a safety hazard to humans.

Of course, being in Australia, some of our jellyfish will more than give you a sting; they will kill you. The notorious box jellyfish found in warmer waters around Queensland and the Northern Territory make swimming without nets a no go option for 6 months of the year.

Why? Because merely touching the tentacles of a “stinger” or box jellyfish will kill you in 2 minutes (and, no, I’m not pulling your leg). The sting causes searing pain and unless household vinegar is administered immediately, your chances aren’t good.

Then there’s the little Irukandji jellyfish, not more than an inch or two in size. Found in the waters north of Cairns, these little characters look harmless enough and their sting is initially only minor. However, within 30 minutes it results in severe pain, nausea, and intense agitation. Then, if you’re unlucky: death.

While stingers are a sea creature they can also wash back upstream into rivers, making them hard to avoid. Consequently, some swimmers (like lifeguards) wear pantyhose as protection. That’s why, in Far North Queensland, it’s not uncommon to find men in pantyhose down on the beach.

So next time you find yourself by the sea and spot a dead jellyfish, consider the power of these little critters. We are still learning so much about our natural world. And, while it can sometimes be hazardous, the benefits of enhancing our understanding far outweigh the risks.

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