Climate Change, Nature, Science, Wildlife & Animal Rights

Stung! The Problem with Jellyfish is…

Aurelia jellyfish close up
Aurelia jellyfish.
Image: Shutterstock

If you’ve ever been to the ocean before, you have most likely encountered a jellyfish.  On the surface, these creatures don’t look like much.  In fact, they resemble the lowest common denominator of an animal that still qualifies as living.

Jellyfish do not have brains or blood.  They simply float along, or move through pulsating the bell portion, in the ocean current going wherever they go.  They look so peaceful, but don’t be fooled.  Many species of jellyfish are capable of killing a full-grown human.  A bad box jellyfish sting can stop the heart of an adult in less than three minutes.

One woman described the feeling of getting stung like the “sensation of thousands of burning needles.”

Over 150,000 people are stung by jellyfish each year.  Why do so many people end up getting stung?  Partially, it’s because they don’t realize how dangerous some jellyfish can be.  They may not know what type they are and take a risk.  Or, they don’t want to spoil their vacation by staying out of the water.  There are many reasons, but one thing is for certain.  Jellyfish populations are growing each year.

Jellyfish actually are one of the few creatures who gains from our mistakes.  We have contributed to climate change.  Other animals are not able to adapt.  Jellyfish are.  We have overfished the oceans leaving plenty of room for the jellyfish to proliferate.  They don’t only eat fish, so the lack of fish is not a big problem.  It is estimated that jellyfish have been on the planet for 700 million years!  They are not going anywhere.

Jellyfish can cause other problems beside stings.  “Blooms have capsized fishing vessels, shut down nuclear reactors, clogged desalination plants, threatened an Olympic triathlon and devastated fisheries,” according to the Huffington Post.

All jellyfish are poisonous, but some are not able to pierce human skin to sting them.  As a rule, clear jellyfish are not a threat to humans unless you are in Australia where the irukandji live.  That species is clear and delicate looking, but very venomous.

If you’re going on vacation to a place where jellyfish may be present, please seek expert advice about whether it is really safe to swim, and avoid a trip to the emergency room.

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