We all knew that jellyfish are the oldest multicellular animals on the planet. But did you know they don’t have brains and they can even clone themselves?
For these and many more reasons, jellyfish are one of the most interesting species that can be found in all the seas on our planet. They never stop to amaze us with their unique beauty and unique opacity shades. In Greece, the majority of these organisms are harmless to humans, but some should be approached carefully.
What exactly is Jellyfish?
Jellyfish are free-swimming, brainless sea animals. They have umbrella-shaped bells and tentacles with stinging cells. Some jellyfish use their tentacles to catch their prey and defend themselves against predators.
In some cultures, they are eaten by humans, even as a delicacy. Some scientists go as far as to explain that they are “perfect food” – sustainable, and protein-rich but low-calorie. Would you ever try it?
They are also used in scientific research.
Species of Jellyfish in the Greek seas:
- Cotylorhiza tuberculata – brown jellyfish
- Aurelia aurita – moon jellyfish
- Rhizostoma pulmo – blue jellyfish
- Pelagia noctiluca – purple jellyfish
Cotylorhiza tuberculata (brown jellyfish)
The “brown jellyfish” that Greeks call Saloufa – The Cotylorhiza tuberculata, also called the brown medusa, can be found all around Greek seas. It is harmless, so you can even hold it in your hands without fear.
They are brown-yellow and very large so the Greeks also call them the “fried egg” jellyfish because of their shape and color. It is sometimes referred to as the Mediterranean jellyfish.
In addition to looking like a fried egg from above, it resembles a bouquet seen from the side. It is widespread in the Aegean and its diameter can reach 40 cm (15.7 inches) but is usually less than 17cm wide. Its sting is not dangerous to humans.
Aurelia aurita (moon jellyfish)
Also known as “moon jellyfish”, the Aurelia aurita jellyfish is the most common in Greece’s seas. Its “umbrella” is relatively flat and transparent with a white shade and four specific circles on the outer part.
Its sting is not annoying to most people and it is hard to spot it when you look down from above.
Rhizostoma pulmo (blue jellyfish)
Also known as blue jellyfish, the Rhizostoma pulmo is large and its “umbrella” has a bluish color with purple shades or a purple band on the outside. It closely resembles a mushroom in form.
Pelagia noctiluca (purple jellyfish)
One of the most common jellyfish in Greek seas is the Pelagia noctiluca, whose population growth has surprisingly been proven to have nothing to do with pollution.
The purple color of Pelagia noctiluca gives it a specific charm. Its average diameter is just 6 cm (2.3 inches). To us, it is known simply as the “purple jellyfish”, the only jellyfish with this delicate hue in Greece.
What jellyfish in Greece can be potentially dangerous for people?
The most unpleasant is the sting of the purple jellyfish (Pelagia noctiluca), which can be quite painful, but not particularly dangerous, and can be easily treated. The purple jellyfish has multiplied in some parts of the Aegean Sea and is now reportedly spreading to the Ionian Sea.
Experts say rising sea temperatures and overfishing are exacerbating the phenomenon.
The number of purple jellyfish in Greece is increasing
Local reports and the Hellenic Biodiversity Observatory say purple jellyfish have already been spotted in Zakynthos, Kefalonia, Paxos, Antipaxos, Corfu, and Amvrakikos Bay. There is also concern that this type of jellyfish could appear in the Gulf of Patras.
It is a species that emits very strong neurotoxins.
Purple jellyfish appeared in Greece in October 2020; scientists cannot say when or if they will retreat.
What’s the sting like?
Pelagia noctiluca or purple jellyfish is considered the most stinging jellyfish in the Mediterranean Sea. Its tentacles are covered with stinging cells, and even specimens stranded on the beach can cause discomfort.
Sting injuries usually last a week or two. Redness, rash, and swelling appear at the site, and so far not a single fatal outcome has been recorded. Sometimes the symptoms are a little more severe and include dizziness, vomiting, and diarrhea.
Rarely, a sting can cause a serious allergic reaction and leave scarring.
Symptoms caused by a purple jellyfish sting
After being stung by a jellyfish, you can feel: a stinging pain, often intense redness of the skin, and in some cases, a jellyfish mark may appear on the skin.
In case of systemic symptoms (rare) such as hypotension, hoarseness, wheezing, spreading rash, communication and consciousness disorders, or vomiting, it is necessary to see a doctor immediately.
Experts recommend that you bring a first aid kit to the beach, such as anti-allergy gel or cortisone cream.
What if you get stung by a purple jellyfish
- Get out of the sea to a safe place on the beach
- Wash the burned area with plenty of seawater
- Remove the remains of the jellyfish with some object, never with bare hands
- What can help: ice, pain relievers, and cortisone cream
Homemade remedy: You can apply a paste of 2 tbsp of baking soda + 2 tbsp of seawater to the injury. Carefully apply to the wound and leave for a few minutes.
Remember: vinegar, as well as fresh water and alcohol, do NOT help with the bite of this type of jellyfish.
If there are systemic symptoms such as shortness of breath, hoarseness, or general discomfort, go and see your doctor.
Check out what beaches and places in Greece have jellyfish
The project to monitor the movement of jellyfish in the seas was started a few years ago and you can follow it on the website here: iNaturalist – Jellyfish of Greece
If you experience any purple jellyfish sightings, please post them to iNaturalist, here: https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/upload It is very important to be able to see how its expansion develops and whether we will have a problem in the Aegean sea (or even the Ionian sea) next summer.
There is also a map on the link where the parts of the Greek seas where jellyfish have been seen are marked. Information about jellyfish is regularly updated.
There is also a ‘Jellyfish in Greece’ Facebook group. The group is in Greek and informs residents about the occurrence and types of jellyfish in their area. You can join the group HERE.
Finally, did you know that another word for jellyfish is medusa? Of course, it comes from Greek mythology where Medusa was one of the three Gorgons – monsters that looked like women with live snakes in place of their hair. Whoever looked into Medusa’s eyes would turn to stone.
Greek Hero Perseus beheaded her and used her head as a weapon but it finally ended up on the goddess Athena’s shield.