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Lion’s Mane jellyfish spotted on Yarmouth beaches

Lion’s Mane jellyfish on False Harbour Beach.
Lion’s Mane jellyfish on False Harbour Beach. - Carla Allen

Scientist says jellyfish are much larger this year

YARMOUTH, N.S. —

Some folks walking Yarmouth beaches and others in the region may have encountered some unusual glassy-looking, reddish-purple deposits left by receding tides.

Lion’s mane jellyfish, also known as the giant jellyfish or the hair jelly, is the largest known species of jellyfish. Its range is confined to cold, boreal waters of the Arctic, northern Atlantic and northern Pacific oceans.

Biologist Bethany Nordstrom says it’s not uncommon for these types of jellyfish to wash up on shores throughout the Maritimes.

“They aren’t as common down towards Yarmouth as they would be up towards Cape Breton and the Gulf of St. Lawrence, but we definitely get them.”

A few years ago, Nordstrom launched a Citizen Science project requesting the public’s assistance in reporting sightings of jellyfish on beaches. Her goal was to examine the predator/prey relationship between leatherback turtles and jellyfish. 

“Leatherbacks are an endangered species. We knew they were coming up here (off Nova Scotian shores) to eat jellyfish, but we didn’t know how much they needed to eat to fulfil their energy requirements,” she said.

Nordstrom says if lion’s mane tentacles are still attached they can still deliver a sting even if they’ve been washed up. It can be “a bit painful,” but won’t cause serious damage and is eased by rinsing with vinegar.

These jellyfish can grow to be the largest jellyfish species in the world. There have been records of some that have grown 30-foot-long tentacles. 

Nicholas Record, senior research scientist at Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences in Boothbay, Maine, says the appearance of lion’s mane jellyfish onshore can be really sporadic from year to year, for several reasons. 

“You just need the current and wind conditions to bring them on shore sometimes,” he said. “Another reason is because jellyfish tend to reproduce really quickly. Their numbers will grow and these events may appear to be really sudden. Then you may not see them for a few years. The fact that they show up in general is not unheard of, it’s just that there may be many years in between these events.”

Record also has a citizen report program to record whenever people see a jellyfish around the Gulf of Maine (US and Canada). 

He says what’s unusual this year is the size of the jellyfish that have been coming in. 

“I get reports every summer from Maine and southern Nova Scotia, since 2014,” he said. “The jellyfish show up at different times of the year and in different areas.”

He’s had many reports of jellyfish where the distance across the circle is about two feet. He even received a photo from down-east Maine of one that looked to be five or six feet across. 

“That’s just a giant. There are historic reports of them being that big. There was a report of one off the coast of New Hampshire that stung a number of people who were using the beach at the time. I don’t know why they’ve been so big this year,” he said.

Record is working on a forecast map similar to weather, only forecasting the movement of jellyfish. You can see the jellycast here.

Help Nick Record build his jellycast

Email with what you saw, where and when, size and a photo 

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