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Why Do Jellyfish Wash Up On The Beach? Surprising Reasons [Plus How to Stay Safe]

Beached Jellyfish On The Shore And Strand (Including Cannonball Jellyfish) What’s The Reason?

Key Takeaways

  • Jellyfish frequently wash ashore due to storms, being unable to navigate independently in currents.
  • They’re invertebrates, feeding on plankton, and need clean water; they belong with corals in cnidarians.
  • Weather conditions, especially storms and warmth, can lead to jellyfish strandings, where they dry out.
  • Beachgoers must exercise caution; certain jellyfish species have stings that can be extremely harmful.
  • Protective measures against stings include wearing protective clothing, using repellents, and researching local species.
  • Jellyfish play significant roles in marine ecosystems, serving as both predators and prey in aquatic food chains.

Jellyfish are usually seen floating around in the oceans, but sometimes they wash up on the shores. These jellyfish are not dangerous to humans, but they can be quite frightening to look at. If you ever notice many jellyfish washing up on the beach, don’t worry. Thousands of people have encountered this spectacle, and nothing bad happened to them. That makes me wonder, why do jellyfish wash up on the beach? Is it due to nature’s way of realigning their population?

why do jellyfish wash up on the beach?

Why Do Jellyfish Wash Up On The Beach?

So, why do jellyfish wash up on the beach? There are several reasons why jellyfish get beached. One reason is that jellyfish drift along with currents, and sometimes they are carried by the tide and washed ashore. It happens most often during storms. Jellyfish don’t have their locomotion (no fins or flippers), making them drift in the currents, much like nature intended for these fascinating creatures.

The fascinating subject of marine biology brings attention to jellyfish and their tendency to wind up on beaches, resulting from the combined effects of ocean currents and wind directions. In this scenario, ocean currents, taking cues from weather patterns, carry various sea creatures, one of them being jellyfish, towards the shoreline. Complementing the currents are the wind directions, guiding the paths of jellyfish blooms towards beaches.

Tidal waves join this orchestra of causative factors, transporting aquatic wanderers from sea depths to beaches, jellyfish being notoriously incapable of combating these strong waves due to their swimming behavior. Intriguingly, the density of the jellyfish that end up on the beach is dictated significantly by environmental elements such as the ocean’s oxygen levels and water temperatures, which signal jellyfish breeding seasons and consequent population increases.

A notable factor within the complex marine ecosystem that influences jellyfish beaching relates to the ocean predator populations. When predator numbers ebb, jellyfish populations peak, translating to more jellyfish wash ups.

Environmental changes in global oceans like the Pacific, Atlantic, and Indian Ocean uniquely impact different coastlines, making Florida beaches witness to Pacific induced jellyfish stranding while the Australian coastline becomes privy to Atlantic and Indian Ocean influenced beaching events. This dynamic interplay between jellyfish and nature’s elements underscores the multifaceted narrative of marine biology and the marine ecosystem.

Jellyfish are usually found in tropical waters, but during the summer months, jellyfish also appear along the coastlines of the United States. Most jellyfish are harmless, but some species can sting humans if they touch them. Jellyfish are not like fish; they don’t breathe air. Instead, they live off plankton, which means they need clean water to survive. 

Jellyfish are often confused with sea anemones but are more closely related to corals than anemones. Jellyfish are cnidarians, meaning they belong to the same phylum as corals. 

The ocean is full of strange creatures, and jellyfish are no exception. They are invertebrates, which means that they don’t have any bones. Their bodies are 95% water. (Source

The ocean is full of strange creatures, and jellyfish are no exception. They are invertebrates, which means that they don’t have any bones. Their bodies are 95% water. (Source) With thousands of different species, people often find themselves in awe of the diverse marine life.

Let’s have a closer look at jellyfish, why they end up on the beach, and how we can help the stranded ones. Keep on reading and stay tuned – you won’t want to miss it!

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What Causes Jellyfish to Wash up On the Beach?

Jellyfish washing up on the beach is a common occurrence caused by various factors such as wind, tides, and currents. Stormy weather, heavy rain, and high winds can attract jellyfish to the shore, and warmer weather can bring them closer.

Unfortunately, when they wash up, they quickly dry out and die due to their high water content. Factors such as temperature, pollution, and human activities can also affect the probability of jellyfish washing up on the shore. In some coastal areas, jellyfish can even carpet the sand in thick, gooey mats.

  • Jellyfish washing up on the beach is a common occurrence caused by various factors such as wind, tides, and currents.
  • Stormy weather, heavy rain, and high winds can attract jellyfish to the shore, and warmer weather can bring them closer.
  • When jellyfish wash up, they quickly dry out and die due to their high water content.
  • Factors such as temperature, pollution, and human activities can affect the probability of jellyfish washing up on the shore.
  • In some coastal areas, jellyfish can even carpet the sand in thick, gooey mats.
YouTube video by Fox 35 Orlando which shows jellyfish on the beach and some tips to keep from being stung.

While jellyfish washing up on the beach may be a common occurrence, it can significantly impact the local ecosystem. When jellyfish populations increase, it can disrupt the food chain as they consume plankton and small fish that other marine animals rely on for food.

Additionally, dead jellyfish on the beach can attract scavengers such as seagulls and crabs, leading to an imbalance in the local ecosystem. It is important for beachgoers to be cautious when encountering jellyfish as some species can have painful or even lethal stings.

In some areas, lifeguards may post warning signs or advise visitors to stay out of the water to avoid contact with jellyfish.

Can Jellyfish Survive Being Washed up On the Beach

No, jellyfish can’t survive being washed up on the beach. If they do not get back into the water, they will die. However, they are known to live for up to 10 hours or even a day, sometimes longer.

What Do You Do with A Washed-Up Jellyfish?

If you find a jellyfish on the beach, it is best not to touch it with your hands as there could be stingers on its tentacles, and you could get a painful sting. In this way, you can protect yourself and respect the natural cycle of these fascinating creatures.Knowing it will die unless it gets back into the water, you can try to move the animal to the water, but not with bare hands. In fact, some jellyfish, like the cannonball jellyfish, can often be found washed ashore along the coast due to currents.

Jellyfish on the beach- BrightSwirl

Interestingly, a washed-up jellyfish can be used for several purposes. Some cultures often eat it, as it has been proven to have many health benefits. Jellyfish should be cooked before being eaten – boiled or steamed – as they may contain toxins that could harm humans if not properly cooked.

It can also be used as a type of fertilizer and is often dried for use in paper production.

Personal Thoughts and Experiences with Jellyfish on the Beach

Growing up in California, I did see beached jellyfish from time to time on Coronado Beach and La Jolla Shores Beach. I was always taught to just leave them alone so as not to get stung or get the jellyfish goo (decomposing jellyfish) on me.

Later, when I was in China, I went to Sanya Island and it was amazing to see so many jellyfish not only beached, but swimming around and floating in the waves. There were literally hundreds. Sadly, I tried to save a few by putting them back in the water, but I’m not sure it helped. I am not really afraid of being stung, but I don’t want to be so I’ll stay out of the ocean where there are sightings.

What Kind of Jellyfish Wash up On the Beach – More Information About the Jellyfish

Jellyfish that wash up on beaches can be of any kind – even the dangerous Man-of War Portuguese jellyfish – depending on whether the jellyfish got caught up in the tide or current.

All oceans around the world are home to jellyfish. Some species are harmless, while others are deadly. Jellyfish are mostly gelatinous blobs that float in the ocean. 

Jellyfish Are Invertebrates

Here are five facts about jellyfish:

1. Jellyfish Are Not Fish – Jellyfish are cnidarians, a group of invertebrates including corals, sea anemones, and sponges. They don’t swim through the water as fish do. Instead, they float near the surface and use tentacles to capture prey.

2. Jellyfish Have No Brain – Jellyfish don’t have brains. They have nerve cells called neurons but no central nervous system. 

3. Jellyfish are invertebrates. Invertebrate animals don’t have backbones or spinal cords. They are made up of two main parts: the bell and the tentacles. (Source)

Jellyfish do not have brains or vertebrae, they are invertebrates- BrightSwirl

4. Jellyfish are classified into the classes of Scyphozoa, Cubozoa, and Medusozoa

5. Jellyfish Can Be Harmful – Jellyfish stingers contain venom that causes pain and inflammation. Some species can inject toxins directly into the human skin. (Source)

What Are the Different Types of Jellyfish?

1. Aequorea Species

The Aequorea species of jellyfish is known for its unique bioluminescence, which allows it to emit a green glow when disturbed. This species has a translucent bell-shaped body with a diameter of up to 10 centimeters and long, delicate tentacles that trail behind it. Aequorea jellyfish are typically found in the cool waters of the Pacific Ocean, from Alaska to California, and can be seen at depths of up to 200 meters. They are also known for their ability to camouflage themselves by adjusting the level of bioluminescence they emit, making them difficult to spot in their natural habitat. Aequorea jellyfish are not harmful to humans and are often used in scientific research due to their unique bioluminescent properties.

2. Salpa Species

Salpa is a jellyfish found in warm and cold waters worldwide. Their body is mostly water, allowing them to filter feed on plankton and other small organisms by drawing water through their bodies. They can form chains and swarms, which transport carbon and nutrients to deeper waters and are vital to the ocean’s ecosystem. Salpas have a unique reproductive cycle, alternating between a solitary and colonial lifestyle. During their colonial phase, they can form large swarms seen from space. Salpa species are important players in the ocean’s food chain and ecosystem.

3. Physalia Species

  • Physalia is a species of jellyfish recognizable by its blue or purple gas-filled float and long tentacles. Scientists specializing in marine life and the science of jellyfish have gained a better understanding of their biology and environment.
  • They can be found in warm waters of the Atlantic, Indian, and Pacific Oceans in colonies, where water temperatures play a crucial role in their distribution.
  • Physalia’s tentacles can extend up to 50 meters and have stinging cells used for hunting prey, making them extraordinary among the various things found in the ocean.
  • Their sting is painful and potentially dangerous to humans, but they are not aggressive and typically only sting when disturbed.
  • It’s important to avoid contact with Physalia when swimming in their habitat to ensure a safe environment for both humans and these marine creatures.

4. Chrysaora Species

Unfortunately, the given research does not provide information specifically about the Chrysaora species of jellyfish. It only mentions moon jellyfish and by-the-wind sailor jellyfish. Moon jellyfish have translucent bells with four half-circles that are the reproductive tissues, and their stinging cells are not strong enough to penetrate human skin. By-the-wind sailor jellyfish have a rigid sail poking above the water and purple tentacles dangling underneath, and they drift aimlessly through the open sea, gorging on tiny fish and plankton. They become stranded on beaches around the world when seasonal winds change course, resulting in massive die-offs.

5. Aurelia Species

The Aurelia species of jellyfish is a fascinating marine creature that can be found in various oceans around the world. The following table presents detailed information about this species.

Focus Feature Characteristics Habitat and Behavior
Species Aurelia species of jellyfish Common and widespread species found in oceans around the world
Appearance Translucent, saucer-shaped bell that can grow up to 40 cm in diameter. Usually pale blue or pinkish in color Bell is surrounded by a fringe of long, slender tentacles used to capture planktonic prey
Habitat Typically found in coastal waters, bays, and estuaries Presence can provide valuable information regarding the health of the environment
Tolerance Capable of tolerating a wide range of temperatures and salinities
Effect on Humans Do not have a powerful sting and are not harmful to humans
Behavior Known for their unique swimming behavior Involves pulsing their bells to move through the water slowly and gracefully

6. Cyanea Species

Cyanea species of jellyfish are characterized by their large size, often reaching up to 10 feet in length. They have a translucent bell with a bluish tint and long, slender tentacles that can extend up to 60 feet. They are commonly found in the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans, particularly in the coastal waters of North America. Cyanea jellyfish are unique in their ability to regulate their buoyancy, allowing them to move up and down in the water column. They are also known for their potent sting, which can cause severe pain and even paralysis in humans. Despite their dangerous reputation, Cyanea jellyfish are an important part of the marine ecosystem, serving as both predator and prey to a variety of other marine animals.

What If You Get Stung By a Jellyfish?

If you get stung by a jellyfish, rinse the affected area with seawater to flush out any of the venoms that may remain. You should also seek medical attention and continue to rinse the affected area with fresh seawater for at least 30 minutes if the pain and swelling continue. 

You can find jellyfish washing up on the beach- BrightSwirl

How to Avoid Getting Stung by Jellyfish when Swimming in The Sea?

1. Research the Species of Jellyfish that Live in The Area

To avoid getting stung by jellyfish while swimming in the sea, it is important to research the species that inhabit the area and consult with scientists, who can provide information on their behavior and environmental factors.

This can be done by gathering information from lifeguards, locals, or health officials about the presence and seasonality of jellyfish. It is also helpful to be aware of any jellyfish indicators or warning signs posted on the land near the beach. Keeping up with the news on jellyfish sightings can also assist in preventing contact. Knowing how to identify jellyfish and their tentacles is crucial for safety.

Protective measures like wearing a wet suit or using jellyfish repellent can decrease the risk of being stung. One can guarantee a safe and pleasurable beach experience by researching jellyfish species and taking appropriate precautions.

2. Check the Beach for Jellyfish Before Going Swimming

Jellyfish stings can cause pain and discomfort, but there are ways to avoid them when swimming in the sea. Here is a concise guide on how to avoid jellyfish stings:

  1. Check the beach for jellyfish before going swimming. Talk to lifeguards, locals, or officials with the local health department to get information about conditions and jellyfish season.
  2. Avoid the water during jellyfish season or when there are a lot of jellyfish present, such as during a jellyfish bloom. Always survey your surroundings when you arrive at the beach. Seeing jellyfish that have washed up on the beach may be an indicator of jellyfish in the water.
  3. Swim at beaches with lifeguards. Lifeguards will usually make beachgoers aware if jellyfish currently pose a threat to swimmers. Some beaches will post signs or flags. A purple sign indicates dangerous marine life, such as jellyfish.

3. Stay Away from Stinging Jellyfish

Jellyfish stings can pose a threat with red marks, tingling, numbness, and itching symptoms. To avoid getting stung, it is best to check for warning signs at the beach and avoid swimming during jellyfish season. Be cautious when swimming in areas where jellyfish are common, and always survey your surroundings. If stung, swim calmly towards shore or tread slowly, hoping the jellyfish passes. Keep in mind that most jellyfish only sting when provoked.

It is important to take precautions to protect yourself from jellyfish while diving or swimming in the sea. Wearing protective clothing such as a stinger suit made of Lycra, Spandex, Nylon, or Polyester is recommended. These suits prevent jellyfish from stinging you by allowing water to filter through but keeping jellyfish out. Repellents can also be used in areas with high populations of poisonous jellyfish. It is important to know how to identify jellyfish, which can vary in size, color, and shape. If stung, rinse the affected area with vinegar or saltwater, remove tentacles with tweezers, and seek medical attention if symptoms are severe or persist. Following these steps can minimize the risk of encountering jellyfish in the sea.

4. Wear a wetsuit or other protective clothing

When swimming in the sea, wearing protective clothing like a wetsuit is crucial to avoid getting stung by jellyfish. The thick material of a wetsuit acts as an effective barrier against their stings. It’s important to ensure the wetsuit covers as much skin as possible, including the arms and legs. Other protective clothing like stinger suits made of fabrics like Lycra and Nylon can also be used. Despite wearing protective clothing, always avoid jellyfish, as stings through wetsuits have been reported. Check with local officials for jellyfish presence indicators before swimming.

How to Avoid Getting Stung by Jellyfish when You’re at The Beach?

1. Don’t Swim in Areas with A Lot of Jellyfish

Avoid swimming in areas with a high concentration of jellyfish to prevent painful and dangerous stings, especially if you have an allergy. Consult lifeguards, residents, or health officials before swimming in coastal waters, and use protective measures during jellyfish season. If a jellyfish bloom is present, avoid the water entirely. If swimming isn’t safe, try other activities like sunbathing or beachcombing. Stay informed and safe while enjoying the beach.

2. Don’t Touch Jellyfish with Your Bare Skin

– Jellyfish stings are painful and can result in a rash.
– Avoid touching jellyfish with bare skin, as even dead ones may still sting.
– Jellyfish have nematocysts on their tentacles that release venom when triggered.
– Most jellyfish only sting when provoked, so avoiding touching them altogether is best.
– To prevent stings, seek information and avoid water during jellyfish season.
– If stung, rinse with sea water, remove spines, and soak in warm water before taking painkillers.

3. Don’t Pick up Jellyfish

To avoid getting stung, it’s important not to pick up jellyfish or their parts from the beach. Dead jellyfish can still cause pain and rash due to the nematocysts on their tentacles. If you encounter a jellyfish in the water, swim calmly towards the shore or tread slowly to avoid it. Stay away from the beach during jellyfish-attracting conditions. Swim at beaches with lifeguards, wear protective suits or repellent, and know how to recognize a jellyfish. Respect marine life and avoid picking up jellyfish from the beach.

4. Avoid Swimming at Night

It’s important to avoid swimming at night if you want to avoid getting stung by jellyfish. This is because jellyfish are attracted to light and tend to come closer to shore at night. Swimming in the dark makes it harder to see jellyfish in the water, which increases the risk of getting stung. To stay safe, it’s best to swim during the day and to avoid swimming at night. Remember to talk to lifeguards or local officials for information about conditions before you go swimming and to wear protective clothing if you’re going to be in the water.

5. Educate Yourself About the Jellyfish that Live in The Area

– Educating oneself about local jellyfish species is important when trying to avoid getting stung at the beach.
– Different species of jellyfish have varying levels of toxicity and sting severity.
– Box Jellyfish found in Australia’s coastal waters from October to May have an extremely potent and potentially deadly sting.
– Portuguese Man O’ War found in warmer waters have long tentacles that can cause painful stings.
– Knowing which jellyfish species are common in the area can help beachgoers take appropriate precautions to avoid getting stung.

Final Thoughts      

Jellyfish are interesting creatures. They live in oceans worldwide and wash up on beaches every once in a while, usually after a storm. Probably the first thing that comes to mind when we see them on the beach is to try and rescue them, but keep in mind, as mentioned in this article, it’s best not to touch them with bare hands. 

As the summer months will be here soon, be aware of these fascinating invertebrate creatures while swimming or on the beach. 

Frequently Asked Questions‍

Are Beached Jellyfish a Common Sight?

The frequency of beached jellyfish can vary depending on the location and certain factors like ocean currents. In some areas, large numbers of jellyfish washing up on the shore may be a common occurrence, while in other areas, it may be a relatively rare sight.

Can Beached Jellyfish Still Sting?

Yes, beached jellyfish can still pose a stinging threat. Even though they are stranded on the beach, their tentacles may still contain venomous cells that can cause a painful sting if touched.

What Should I Do if I Come Across a Beached Jellyfish?

If you come across a beached jellyfish, it’s best to keep a safe distance and avoid touching it. If you or someone else is stung, rinse the affected area with seawater (not freshwater) to remove any remaining tentacles and seek medical attention if necessary.

What Types of Jellyfish Wash up On the Beach?

  • Jellyfish that commonly wash up on beaches include Velella velella and barrel jellyfish.
  • Velella velella can pile up in thick, gooey mats on the sand, while barrel jellyfish can reach up to one meter in diameter.
  • Barrel jellyfish are mostly white with purple fringing and have thick, frilled arms hanging down instead of long tentacles.
  • It’s common to see jellyfish in large numbers on beaches, especially after stormy weather, because they drift passively and get carried by oceanic currents.

How Can You Tell if A Jellyfish Is Dangerous?

To identify if a jellyfish is dangerous, look out for the following characteristics:

  • Large size or long tentacles
  • Colorful or unusual appearance
  • Presence of warning signs or indicators on the beach
  • Knowledge of the location and type of jellyfish in the area

Some jellyfish species, such as Box Jellyfish, Lion’s Mane Jellyfish, and Sea Nettle, are more dangerous than others. It’s important to do research on jellyfish season and beach conditions before swimming or diving in coastal waters. Additionally, wearing protective clothing and using jellyfish repellent can help prevent stings.

What Is the Effect of Jellyfish Stings on Humans?

Jellyfish stings can cause immediate pain and redness on the skin. The severity of the sting can vary, but some stings may also result in whole-body illness. It is a myth that urine can counteract the venom and may worsen the sting. To treat a jellyfish sting, rinse with seawater or a baking soda and seawater paste, remove any leftover tentacles, and take pain relievers or apply antihistamines or steroid creams. Long-term effects include the possibility of infection and serious allergic reactions, which may require medical attention.

Are All Beached Jellyfish Dangerous?

Not all beached jellyfish are dangerous. While some jellyfish species, like the sea nettle and Portuguese man-of-war, have venomous tentacles that can cause severe stings, many beached jellyfish are of harmless species, such as the cannonball jellyfish or moon jellies.

How Can I Stay Safe While Swimming in South Carolina Waters?

To stay safe while swimming in South Carolina waters, it’s important to be aware of the local jellyfish species and their potential presence. Stay informed by checking with the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources for any warnings or advisories before swimming. Additionally, if you spot a large number of jellyfish in the water, it’s best to avoid swimming in that area.

What Is the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources’ Role in Jellyfish Management?

The South Carolina Department of Natural Resources monitors and manages the state’s marine resources, including jellyfish populations. They provide information about jellyfish species that can be found in South Carolina waters and issue advisories or warnings to beachgoers and swimmers when necessary.

Why Are There only A Small Number of Jellyfish Washing up On the Beach?

The occurrence of a small number of jellyfish washing up on the beach can be influenced by various factors, including ocean currents, water temperature, and the availability of food sources. It is a natural phenomenon that may vary from time to time.

How Do Ocean Currents Affect Jellyfish Washing up On the Beach?

Ocean currents play a significant role in the transportation of jellyfish. Strong currents can carry jellyfish towards the shore, potentially resulting in more beached jellyfish. Conversely, weak currents may result in fewer jellyfish being washed ashore.

Are Cannonball Jellyfish a Common Species to Wash up On the Beach?

Yes, cannonball jellyfish are one of the commonly observed species to wash up on the beach. Their distinct look and frequent occurrence make them a familiar sight to beachgoers.