Tuesday, August 7, 2012
Black jellyfish were only discovered as a species in the late 1990s. These unusual creatures are now being found along the San Diego coastline.
In fact, the Living Coast Discovery Center in Chula Vista has collected more than a dozen to show people what their arrival says about the condition of our coastal waters.
"We're all about bringing people closer to local wildlife and up close to see animals that live in our own backyard," Wendy Spaulding said. She's been with the Living Coast Discovery center in the South Bay for two years and says San Diego is seeing more Black Jellyfish than ever before.
"In the last decade or so, we've seen them about five times in our local waters, where as in the 100 years before that they were seen about five times," Spaulding said.
Up close under light, they look more maroon than black. These jellyfish start very small and can grow to the size of a large trash can lid.
But Spaulding can only speculate at this point why they're showing up in San Diego.
"It's a big mystery and scientists are looking into it. We think it might have something to do with increased plankton blooms, so increased nutrients in the water making larger blooms of plankton, which these guys eat. It might also have to do with warming currents in the ocean," she said.
And like a blooming rose, these pretty creatures can also be painful.
"Most of the jellies in our local waters don't have a very bad sting, but these guys do have a pretty potent sting, it's not fatal, but it hurts," Spaulding said.
About 75,000 people visit the Living Coast Discovery Center every year. It was formally the Chula Vista Nature Center. This year marks its 25th anniversary.