Two more rare jellyfish species reported in Maltese waters

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Two more rare jellyfish species reported in Maltese watersThe Spot the Jellyfish team, based at the Malta Operational Centre of the International Ocean Institute at the University of Malta, was recently alerted of the presence of another new uncommon jellyfish species which are being reported in Maltese waters for the first time.

One of the species in question is the moon or saucer jellyfish – Aurelia aurita – which is distinguished by its quartet of horseshoe-shaped gonads (reproductive organs) found just beneath the surface of its bell. This species is translucent and non-stinging and is normally much more abundant in the Atlantic and in the western parts of the Mediterranean since it prefers temperate conditions. It is consumed by a number of predators, which include the leatherback sea turtle and many seabirds which are interested in the small crustaceans frequenting the bell of this species. The species rarely survives for more than six months.

Two more rare jellyfish species reported in Maltese watersThe second novelty consists of the minute but beautiful Cladonema radiatum species, characterised by its bright orange and highly visible eyespots at the base of their tentacles. The polyp stage of this jellyfish is normally found attached to seaweeds or to seagrasses, like Posidonia oceanica. The species is a cosmopolitan one, being known from the Mediterranean, North Sea, Atlantic and even as far afield as Japan. It has a hopping way of swimming, then it suddenly folds its tentacles and lets itself fall. Its recent collection in Maltese waters is somewhat anomalous as the species is normally encountered during the warm June-September period when it causes a tingling sensation to bathers.

The Spot the Jellyfish team said it is grateful to Greg Nowell from Sharklab (Malta) and to Raymond Caruana from the San Lucjan Aquaculture Research Centre for alerting them of the presence of such species.

The Spot the Jellyfish initiative is coordinated by Prof. Aldo Drago with the technical and scientific implementation of Dr Alan Deidun and staff of IOI-MOC (International Ocean Institute – Malta Operational Centre), and enjoys the support of the Malta Tourism Authority (MTA) and of Nature Trust, Friends of the Earth, EkoSkola and the BlueFlag Malta programme.

The initiative follows a citizen science approach and relies on the collaboration of the general public, mariners, divers, and especially the younger generations through their teachers and parents, by recruiting their assistance in recording the presence and location of different jellyfish through the use of a dedicated colourful reporting leaflet. The leaflet was widely distributed, and can be directly downloaded from here, which is replete with snippets and anecdotes about different jellyfish species. With the support of MTA, large posters have furthermore been projected on boards along major bays on both islands.

The initiative received international recognition for its innovative and participatory approach. IOI-MOC plans to ensue with the Spot-the-Jellyfish campaign over the months and sustained submissions by the public are welcome through email ioi-moc@um.edu.mt or by sms (+356 79222278) or through the website.

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