Tuesday, 13 July 2010

Jelly and Ice Cream

Sit on a Northumbrian beach at the moment and you can enjoy jelly with your ice cream free of charge.

The total number of jellyfish washed up on the shoreline in the last couple of weeks must amount to tens upon tens of thousands. Two weeks ago I counted over a hundred in just one short stretch before giving up. On that occasion three species were present though the vast majority were the Common Jellyfish (Aurelia aurita) with its four very distinctive purple reproductive structures clearly visible.

There were also a few Lion's mane jellyfish (Cyanea capillata)

and the closely related blue Cyanea lamarkii

Then, back on the beach on Sunday just gone, the wobbly hoardes again scuppered the family plodge, but this time they were exclusively the blue jellyfish Cyanea lamarkii with none of the other two species present.  Why the difference?  No idea, frankly.

So....how come we are suddenly up to our tentacles in jellyfish?  It's not that easy to find a definitive answer to that one I have found.  Perhaps it is nothing more than a combination of the timing of the breeding cycle and the weather/sea conditions combining to push the jellyfish drifts from the open sea to the shore.

I see that the Marine Conservation Society are asking for jellyfish sightings so you might like to report any that you see here.  There is also a rather nice identification chart on the same web site.  The only trouble I have found with both this and the standard seashore guide books is that they aren't that helpful when faced with a flattened blob on the sand.


  1. Hi Nyctalus, It's a long time since I've seen a mass-stranding of jellyfish like that - the last time was about 15 years ago in Embleton Bay, and then they we all C. capillata which is, I seem to recall, the world's largest jellyfish (although the really big specimens never reach our shores...

  2. Hi Phil. The biggest I've seen washed up was about a foot in diameter but you've prompted me to research a bit more and I see there is a report of one with an 8 foot diameter bell and another with tentacles 120 feet in length! According to Wikipedia (therefore it must be true) the largest known specimen was longer than a Blue Whale and is generally considered the longest known animal in the world. Another fascinating fact.....