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Jellyfish spotting campaign reports uncommon ‘blue button’ and ‘cigar’ species

The Spot the Jellyfish campaign launched last May jointly by the IOI-MOC of the University of Malta and the MTA has recorded the occurrence of uncommon jellyfish and other gelatinous species.

Matthew Vella
30 July 2010, 12:00am
In particular, the presence of the following jellyfish was reported: blue button (Porpita porpita) and the cigar jellyfish (Olindias phosphorica), with the former being characteristic of warmer, tropical waters, whilst different pyrosome and salp individuals were also recorded, some of which weighing up to 1.5kg.

Pyrosomes and salps are not jellyfish but are pelagic tunicates (sea squirts) which do not sting and which are amongst the fastest growing marine organisms. A variety of ctenophores (comb jellies) was also recorded, which generally lack stinging tentacles and have sticky ones instead.

The initial surge in reports for the mauve stinger (Pelagia noctiluca) reported in June subsided somewhat in July, with reports for this common stinging jellyfish going down by as much as 50%, whilst no other Portuguese man o’ war individuals were reported during the month of July.

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, andenjoys 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 is being widely distributed, and can be directly downloaded, 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 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 jellies seen.

Sightings can be also reported online or submitted through an SMS on 79222278, or by sending an email message to ioi-moc@um.edu.mt. Strange jellyfish not included on the leaflet should be caught and kept in a bucketful of seawater prior to contacting IOI-MOC staff (alan.deidun@um.edu.mt) for retrieval to attempt a definite identification of the species. If this is not possible, photos of the same individuals should be taken.

So far, over two hundred records of different jellyfish species have been submitted by the public, and can be viewed online on a summary map which depicts jellyfish occurrence and distribution.

Matthew Vella is editor of MaltaToday.com.mt.

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