Marine experts at Newquay’s Blue Reef Aquarium are warning beachgoers not to touch swarms of stranded jellyfish which are washing up along the Cornish coastline.
A combination of storms and relatively mild weather are thought to have contributed to the sudden influx of mauve stinger jellyfish and ‘by the wind sailors’ – a type of floating cnidarian, similar to the Portuguese man o’ war.
Normally better known as a warmer waters species, the mauve stinger or Pelagia noctiluca, is found in the Mediterranean Sea, Pacific and Atlantic Oceans and is thought to be among the most venomous of jellyfish.
Usually the jellyfish are found in open water, however on occasions they can be washed towards the coastline where they often strand in large numbers.
In recent days thousands have been discovered dead on beaches around Newquay and aquarists at the Towan Promenade aquarium say they are still capable of inflicting painful stings even after death.
“The mauve stinger definitely lives up to its name and can cause quite painful reactions if you accidentally come into contact with their tentacles which are covered with toxic cells, said Blue Reef’s Steve Matchett.
“They use them to capture and incapacitate their prey and also as a means of defence. However the cells will continue to function even after the jellyfish has died and so we strongly recommend people do not touch or attempt to move them.
“If you are stung by a mauve stinger it is recommended not to rub the affected area and, if possible, to pour vinegar on to the sting. If this is not available seawater will help to ease the discomfort.
“Due to the potential allergic reaction to being stung it is advised to seek medical treatment immediately if the symptons worsen,” he added.
According to the official guide to jellyfish species in European waters the mauve stingers’ cells have a very active toxin that produces a burning sensation, intense pain, inflammation and red skin rashes.
The sting results in hives and oedema, as well as vesicles, blisters and scabs that may persist.
Other symptoms, however rare, include nausea, vomiting, muscle cramps and breathing disorders.
Pelagia noctiluca gets its Latin name from its ability to bioluminesce, or produce light at night. Light is given off in the form of flashes when the medusa is stimulated by turbulence created by waves or a ship’s motion.
Issued by Blue Reef Aquarium. For more information contact Steve Matchett on 01637 878134.