New species of jellyfish spotted by swimmers at Ramla Bay

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New species of jellyfish spotted by swimmers at Ramla BayA 20-cm-diameter individual of the compass jellyfish – Chrysaora hyocella, was collected on Wednesday swimmers at Ramla l-Hamra in Gozo, who duly contacted the Spot the Jellyfish (www.ioikids.net/jellyfish) team.

Dr. Alan Deidun, coordinator of the Spot the Jellyfish campaign, said that this is the first time that this species, which is closely related to the much more common mauve stinger, Pelagia noctiluca, has been recorded from Maltese waters, bringing the total of gelatinous species (not just jellyfish, but including also comb jellies, salps and other species) recorded in local waters to date to twenty.

The compass jellyfish is a stinging species which is common in the Atlantic and in the western half of the Mediterranean, being known from Spanish, French and Italian waters, but not from Maltese waters to date.

Its stings should be treated by applying ice packs wrapped in a towel or cloth (not directly on the skin) or by applying a baking soda slurry. Stings should never be rubbed and should always be washed with seawater (never with freshwater).

In perfect synchrony with the opening of the dolphin fish (lampuki) fishing season today, the first young fried egg jellyfish (Cotylorhiza tuberculata) were observed by divers in Gozo yesterday. This jellyfish species, which is innocuous, is in fact known in Maltese as ‘qassata’ or ‘tal-lampuki’ since it occurs during such a fishing season.

The Spot the Jellyfish initiative, which is coordinated by staff at the IOI-MOC at the University of Malta, is supported by the MTA, Nature Trust, Friends of the Earth, SharkLab and the Ekoskola and the Blue Flag Malta programmes.

The initiative follows a citizen science approach and relies on the collaboration of the public, sea farers, divers, and especially youngsters – through their teachers and parents – who are encouraged to assist in recording the presence and location of different jellyfish through the use of a reporting leaflet.

The leaflet is being widely distributed, and can be downloaded from the website www.ioikids.net/jellyfish, which also contains snippets of information and anecdotes about different jellyfish species. With the support of MTA, large posters have also been put up on boards at major bays.

Reporting is done by simply matching the sighted jellyfish with a simple visual identification guide, giving the date and time of the sighting, and indicating the number of individuals seen.

Sightings can be reported online, or by sending a text message to 79604109 or to 7922 2278, or an e-mail message to ioi-moc@um.edu.mt.

Strange-looking jellyfish that are not included on the leaflet should be caught and kept in a bucketful of seawater prior to contacting Dr Deidun on e-mail alan.deidun@um.edu.mt or other IOI-MOC staff to collect for definite identification of the species. If this is not possible, photos of the jellyfish should be taken and sent to the centre.

Photograph by Annette Portelli Said.

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