Giant Jellyfish are the Latest Unlikely Additions to the British Animal Kingdom

By Gerald Lynch on at

There are giant rats invading our homes and dog-killing snakes sitting on our canal banks. Add to the ranks of oversized animal visitors to our shores the Barrel Jellyfish, which has been washing up along the southern coast in unusually high numbers this week.

Capable of growing to be as big as a metre wide and four feet long, they're roughly the size of a wheelie bin when stretched out and floating along the Atlantic ocean, and the Adriatic and Mediterranean seas, its usual hunting grounds.

However, the jellyfish (Latin name Rhizostoma pulmo), has been attracted to our shores by unseasonably-warm seas and a significant "plankton bloom" off the coast of Dorset. With plankton one of the jellyfish's main food sources, the squidgy beasts are collecting in substantial numbers to chow down. Shallow tides leave the jellyfish stranded, drawn towards the beach by windy conditions.

Thankfully, the Barrel Jellyfish isn't a stinging species, and the high number washing up onto beaches suggests that local waters are particularly healthy at the moment. However, despite the allure of grabbing a selfie while holding one of the docile creatures, experts warn against it as it is not uncommon for smaller, stinging jellyfish to get caught up in the larger one's tentacles and dragged to shore along with it. [BBC]

Image Credit: Barrel jellyfish, Rhizostoma pulmo, with fish and rock in background from Shutterstock.com