Locally, our beach flag system uses a purple flag to warn visitors of marine life in the water. This is usually to announce jellyfish. Needless to say, jellyfish are very common in the waters off Florida’s coasts but especially in the Gulf of Mexico.
Just like other animals, there are hundreds of different species of jelly, some more dangerous than others.
Keep an eye out for these common jellyfish in the gulf waters.
1. Moon Jelly
Moon jellies are the most common type of jellyfish that you’ll see here on 30A beaches. Their sac-like body and short tentacles allow it to move easily throughout the water. Its stings aren’t strong enough to penetrate our skin and only cause mild irritation.
2. Cannonball Jellyfish
Also known as the cabbage head jellyfish, this jellyfish is a dome shape with no tentacles. Its venom can give a mild sting, but it’s harmless to humans.
These jellyfish are essential to our ecosystem since they are the preferred prey of the endangered leatherback sea turtle.
3. Atlantic Sea Nettle
Sea Nettles are a rounded-bell shape with long tentacles. Their color depends on what water it’s found in. In more saltier waters like the gulf, Sea Nettles tend to have more orange-brown stripes.
4. Pink Meanie
The pink meanie is a new species of jellyfish discovered in 2000 in the Gulf of Mexico.
Pink meanies pray on other jellyfish, mostly moon jellyfish, and can consume up to 34 at once.
They use their tentacles, which can be up to 70 feet long and weigh 50 pounds, to reel in their prey.
5. Portuguese Man of War*
*Okay, so it’s not technically a jellyfish but a siphonophore, which is not even a single multicellular organism (true jellyfish are single organisms). The Man of War is an organism made up of specialized individual animals (of the same species) called zooids or polyps. Still, it has stinging tentacles that you should be aware of, so we kept it (loosely) on the list. Its purple color and long dangling tentacles make it easy to identify. Though it’s not deadly, their stings are extremely painful to humans.
If you need to treat a jellyfish sting, remember that warm water—not cold—is the best way. We have some other tips on how to relieve the pain from a jelly sting. But don’t forget to watch for the purple flags if you’re on our beaches!
SARAH O’BEIRNE is a summer intern with 30A. She is majoring in journalism at the University of Illinois and loves the beach.