Abnormally large mauve stingers sighted
Abnormally large mauve stingers pelagia noctiluca have been sighted in dense aggregations, known as blooms in numerous localities, including Cirkewwa and Zurrieq over the past weeks, marine biologist Alan Deidun, one of the coordinators of the Spot the Jellyfish initiative said.
The mauve stinger's sting can be powerful and painful.
Dr Deidun said that in some instances, the bell diameter of the individuals seen exceeded 10cms, suggesting that the sighted individuals were mature ones who normally visited shallower depths at this time of the year to reproduce before dying.
A juvenile jellyfish specimen is normally formed after six weeks from the time eggs are laid by the mature individuals.
Normally, such an annual reproduction by mature mauve stinger individuals takes place over the December-January period.
In addition to the mauve stinger blooms, the Spot the Jellyfish team also received numerous reports of other gelatinous species, most of which are non-stingers, including a variety of comb jellies and salps, which bloom shortly after the maximum concentrations of chlorophyll from microscopic plants they feed upon are recorded.
The other coordinators of the Spot the Jellyfish initiative are Aldo Drago and the IEI-MOC staff. It enjoys the support of the Malta Tourism Authority, Nature Trust, Friends of the Earth, EkoSkola, the BlueFlag Malta programme and Sharklab.
The campaign is an IOI-Kids Programme initiative, which follows a citizen science approach and relies on the collaboration of the 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 from www.ioikids.net/jellyfish, 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 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 7922 2278, or an email to [email protected].
Strange jellyfish not included on the leaflet should be caught and kept in a bucketful of seawater prior to contacting IOI-MOC staff for retrieval to attempt a definite identification of the species. If this is not possible, photos of the same individuals should be taken. The Spot the Jellyfish campaign launched in May 2010 has received international recognition for its citizen science value.