29 Jan 2018

Expert feature: Jellyfish in NZ waters

From Afternoons, 2:31 pm on 29 January 2018

The hot weather has brought swarms of jellyfish to many beaches.

What sort of jellyfish populate our waters, why do they sometimes all descend on our beaches and which ones we should be worried about? Jesse Mulligan spoke with Dennis Gordon of NIWA is an expert on these unusual creatures which date back hundreds of millions of years to find out more.

Gordon told Jesse Mulligan most jelly fish or jelly-like creatures you’re likely to see around New Zealand are entirely harmless.

“We’ve got 20 species of true jelly fish, about seven species of stalked jelly fish and one box jelly.

“A real jelly fish is a single organism with a bell and tentacle underneath.”

Most of what we see around New Zealand are salps a barrel-shaped, planktonic tunicate – and they’re harmless, he says.

There are three jellies to look out for however - the stingy ones.

The lion’s mane Gordon says are about 30 cms across and a purplish colour.

Underneath they have a “mop of about 1000 tentacles.”

“On the top of bell are these transparent warts and its tentacles can trail up to 30 metres.”

He says these act as a kind of “living drift net” catching everything in their path.

Another to watch out for is the speckled or spotted jelly fish.

“These are almost same size as lion’s manes they’ve got polka dots on the bell.

“For both of those the sting has been described as a stinging, tingling feeling for about 20 minutes.”

The abundance of jelly fish people are reporting seeing in Wellington are actually a distant cousin. The crystal jelly is recognisable by its radiating blue lines, he says.

Wellington south coast beaches are covered in them at the moment.

“They’re quite pretty, and harmless - up to about 20 cms across and very common in warm weather,” Gordon says.