Extraordinarily sized jellyfish has been spotted by beachgoers on Richards Bay beaches over the past weekend, adding to the list of marine life that has been washing up on the northern KwaZulu-Natal town's shores.
At least two have been found so far, one at the National Sea Rescue Institute base, and the other outside Cubana in the small craft harbour, the Zululand Observer reports.
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According to Jennifer Olbers, a Durban-based marine biologist with Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife, the species washing up is a "true jellyfish" of the class Scyphozoa. The word comes from the Greek for "drinking cup", because of the animal's shape.
"In KwaZulu-Natal, this species is common. It is from the family the Rhizostomatidae," said Olbers. "Jellyfish wash up onto KZN beaches occasionally. This is a natural phenomenon caused by a variety of factors, including changes in water temperature or storm events."
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Olbers says that the species are harmless, but advised that people not to touch their tentacles, as they could trigger skin irritation or a rash.
She added that jellyfish are floating zoos, hosting other animals like baby fish and brittle starfish, which take refuge among the jellyfish's tentacles.
She said the beachings were "part of the natural cycle of a jellyfish and, at this stage, not a cause for concern".