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What You Might Find: 1000s of Jellyfish Crash on Oregon Coast, Including One That Stings

Published 10/29/20 at 12:04 M PDT
By Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

What You Might Find: 1000s of Jellyfish Crash on Oregon Coast, Including One That Stings

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(Newport, Oregon) – A major rush of various jellyfish on the central Oregon coast may mean some spectacular beachcombing right now. (Above: a sea nettle found in Arch Cape years ago)

The environmental group CoastWatch is reporting thousands of various kinds of jellyfish stranding at Newport’s South Beach earlier this week. The group has volunteers looking over beaches up and down the entirety of the coastline, making reports on natural finds and any possible man-made intrusions. One volunteer came across an enormous landscape of them, filing a report with pictures that showed at least two different types of jellyfish, including one that could sting you a bit.

If it’s happened in one place along the Oregon coast, there’s a good chance it happened elsewhere. While Oregon Coast Beach Connection has not recieved word of other such instances,, this does create a decent chance for visitors to catch sight of more interesting creatures, even if it’s not in such great numbers. Major strandings like this occur because of west winds, and west winds don’t just happen in one place on the coast. There are, after all, 362 miles of these beaches.

Moon jelly, courtesy Tiffany Boothe, Seaside Aquarium

The CoastWatch report showed moon jellies (Aurelia labiata) and sea nettles (Chrysaora fuscescens). Moon jellies are harmless but sea nettles can cause some issues: touching them even while dead could leave some with a rash or a bit of pain. Some humans are quite effected by the stinging toxins in jellyfish.

Out in the wild might be a more severe story, however, according to Seaside Aquarium’s Tiffany Boothe.

“You may want to avoid the stinging tentacles of this jellyfish,” Boothe said. “Though not deadly, their sting can make even the manliest men shudder. Their long thin tentacles can trail behind the jellyfish as far as 15 feet. By spreading out their tentacles like a large net, the sea nettle is able to catch food as it passes by. This makes their diet quite varied, consisting of things like small fish and crustaceans, salps, pelagic snails, and even other jellyfish.”

Boothe said sea nettles swim by using jet propulsion, achieved by squeezing their bell and pushing water out behind them. This allows them to swim against currents which most jellyfish can’t do. Still, they can’t move quickly so they still rely on their prey to come closer to them.

The Pacific Sea Nettle has a distinctive look: they’re red with hints of brown. When lying in the sand they appear markedly different than any other jelly or stranded creature on the beach. The sea nettle is copious off Oregon waters as well as California, and somewhat so along the Washington coast up through Alaska.

The moon jelly is akin to most other jellies visually, at least when on the beach. Bunched up or with just part of them sticking out of the sand, they could be mistaken for salps or water jellies, among many other things. If you see the four chamber-like structures at the top, you’re looking at a moon jelly.

“This species of jellyfish ranges from Alaska to California, and is the proverbial ‘drifter,’ as it floats along wherever the ocean’s current takes it,” Boothe said. “They eat tiny marine life such as plankton and diatoms, which they pick up with the tiny hair-like tentacles that lace the outside edge of the jellyfish. Though they sting their prey, us large, thick-skinned humans cannot be harmed by this jelly.”

Both kinds of jellyfish – like all jellies – have no brains, bones or hearts.

Calmer conditions like this are not usually when large amounts of creatures show up, and local experts say moon jellies don’t normally show up in such big numbers. This makes this sighting a tad unusual. More photos of these below:

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Sea nettles inside the Seaside Aquarium, courtesy photo. Below, moon jelly

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