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Rare jellyfish sighting underlines success of citizen science

A rare species of jellyfish first identified in the Strait of Gibraltar nearly 200 years ago has been photographed by The Nautilus Project washed up on a beach in Matalascañas in Huelva, 60 years after its last sighting.

Scientists Quoy and Gaimard originally discovered the species in the Strait of Gibraltar in 1827, making the latest sighting “a significant discovery for us,” said Lewis Stagnetto, the marine biologist at The Nautilus Project.

The last scientifically confirmed sighting prior to this one was in 1959 in the Gulf Guinea.

Rhizostoma luteum (3)

Another sighting was recorded in 2012 but no genetic testing was carried on that occasion, meaning there was no confirmation it was Rhizostoma luteum.

Mr Stagnetto told the Chronicle that Spanish scientist Laura Prieto, from the Instituto de Ciencias Marinas de Andalucia (ICMAN), released a paper in 2013 with the genetic data which demonstrates that Rhizostoma luteum is in fact its own distinct species and not another form of Rhizostoma pulmo or Rhizostoma octopus, as had previously been suspected from the lack of confirmed sightings since its description in 1827.

Last year Karen Kienberger, from Instituto de Ciencias Marinas de Andalucia (ICMAN), released a paper describing the full lifecycle of Rhizostoma luteum for the first time.

“It is very rare and large,” ,” Mr Stagnetto said.

“The umbrella of the jellyfish can reach 60cm in diameter and reach lengths of up to two metres.”

“They are venomous,” he warned. “They sting.”

However, “they are slow moving and because they are so large, they are easy to navigate.”

Mr Stagnetto also explained that these types of jellyfish are general spotted alone rather than in blooms, as is common with other species including the mauve stinger.

He urges anyone who sees on to use either the NEMO app or contact the Nautilus Project with photographic evidence of the find.

“Do not pull it out of the water and throw it in the bin,” he said. “Leave it alone.”

In addition, Mr Stagnetto said: “The establishment of Rhizostoma luteum as its own distinct species pays tribute to the power that citizen science projects can have on scientific research and illustrates why platforms like NEMO can be crucial in collecting this type of information.”

Pics by The Nautilus Project

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