Jellyfish in Florida

If you live in Florida or are just visiting, you might be curious or perhaps worried about the several varieties of jellyfish there.

It’s simple to believe that Florida’s oceans are home to dangerous jellyfish. We’ll see, though, that most jellyfish you could encounter only cause, at least, a slight annoyance, even though it’s prudent to be cautious.

We will assist you in determining which jellyfish to avoid and which ones not to be concerned about.

Fun Facts about Jellyfish

Scyphozoa, the scientific name for jellyfish, precede dinosaurs by a considerable margin. They also predate sharks, plants, and mosquitoes. Even though jellyfish fossils aren’t particularly common, scientists have estimated that jellyfish have been around for 500–700 million years!

A particular kind of zooplankton called a gelatinous zooplankton is the jellyfish. However, some creatures we mistake for jellyfish really belong to the siphonophores order (a few of which we shall discuss below) and are more closely linked to coral.

Although some jellyfish do have eyes, most jellyfish are made up of 98% water and lack a spine, brain, or heart.
A bloom, swarm, or smack of jellyfish are several names for the same entity. It’s generally better to avoid swimming in that area if there is a jellyfish bloom there.

Tuna, sharks, sea turtles, penguins, and even other jellyfish are among the many creatures that prey on jellyfish. A jellyfish that washes up on the coast may also be consumed by local wildlife, such as birds and animals. Even some people that are not humans eat jellyfish.

What Kind of Jellyfish Are Found in Florida?

Nearly all of the world’s oceans contain jellyfish, and Florida’s waters are no different. Even while you generally won’t see them all year long, jellyfish are rather frequently seen in coastal areas as the water cools after a hot summer.

Almost all types of jellyfish may be found in the seas around Florida. From small, transparent invertebrates to bigger animals that move over the ocean’s surface.

These range from common jellyfish like the moon jellyfish that only cause mild annoyance during jellyfish season to rarer and more hazardous jellyfish like the box jellyfish.

If you engage in water activities, you could encounter jellyfish drifting out at sea, although most people encounter them washed up on the beach.

Moon Jellyfish

In Florida, moon jellyfish are quite prevalent (maybe the most common). Additionally, they are quite prevalent across the waters of the world.

Due to their restricted range of motion, they primarily float with the stream while eating by using their tentacles to draw plankton into their bodies for digestion.

You frequently discover them washed up on the coast because of their dependency on currents to move them around.

The diameter of moon jellyfish ranges from around 10 to 16 inches (25 to 40 cm), and they have a very clear, translucent look. They are easily recognized by their four purple-colored, horseshoe-shaped patterns.

A moon jelly might be a little harder to see than other jellies due to their extremely transparent look, especially if the water is already quite clear.

However, moon jellies are luckily harmless to people; in fact, they only have a very little sting that most people won’t even notice (others may simply feel some mild irritation).

Portuguese Man O’ War

Be on the lookout for Portuguese men of war. Unwary scuba divers have been known to get swallowed whole by their lengthy tentacles.

No, I’m just joking. They do, however, have extraordinarily lengthy tentacles, so that part is genuine. In fact, the tentacles may reach an incredible length of 165 feet!

They are a very frequent kind of jellyfish in Florida seas and may be found in the majority of the world’s oceans.

They are frequently seen washed up on Florida beaches because the top half of them floats above the sea, serving as a sail and relying on winds and currents for propulsion.

The Portuguese Man o War is a siphonophore, which is not a jellyfish (which is related to the jellyfish family). It is a collection of several creatures that are cooperating.

You should never try to touch a Man o’War even if it may be dead since its tentacles may still sting you even days after it has died. Otherwise, you might receive an unpleasant surprise!

One of these guys may sting you quite badly. Even though hundreds of Portuguese Man of War sting cases are reported annually, deaths from these stings are uncommon and frequently the result of a severe allergic response.

Two deaths linked to the Portuguese Man O War have been documented; one occurred in Florida in 1987 and the other most recently in Sardinia in 2010. I was able to identify references to further deaths (there were a total of 3 deaths in the United States), but I was unable to obtain complete information on them.

Atlantic Sea Nettle Jellyfish (Chrysaora quinquecirrha)

You could encounter the Atlantic sea nettle while boating because it is a rather frequent visitor to Florida’s shoreline.

The bell of the Atlantic sea nettle jellyfish is normally 12 to 18 centimeters (five to seven inches) in diameter and is mostly transparent or cream colored. The bell of Atlantic sea nettles is typically characterized with a distinct orange-brown striped pattern. Particularly noticeable examples with these marks may be seen in the Gulf of Mexico near the surface.

The stinging tentacles of Atlantic sea nettle jellyfish may reach lengths of up to 50 cm (20 inches). Plankton, comb jellies, fish eggs, fish fry, crabs, and mosquito larvae are just a few of the prey items they employ them for.

The tentacles of an Atlantic sea nettle can cause a somewhat uncomfortable rash and burning feeling in anyone who come into touch with them. However, this normally passes in less than a couple of hours.

The By-the-Wind Sailor

Let’s now get to know the by-the-wind sailor. The scientific name of the by-the-wind sailor is the delightfully humorous “velella velella,” and they are also pretty adorable to look at, resembling little Man O’ Wars.

In that they aren’t exactly jellyfish but rather a colony of creatures cooperating to move about and feed, they are actually rather similar to the Portuguese Man O’ War. With their bright blue and transparent sail floating around the surface, they resemble the Portuguese Man of War in both appearance and means of transportation. However, they are considerably smaller with shorter tentacles, and they represent little to no stinging hazard to people.

Since they rely on the wind to move about, they are typically less than 4 inches and are sometimes seen in groups of hundreds or thousands after a windy storm has gathered them all together.

Box Jellyfish

One of the deadliest marine organisms is the box jellyfish, which is poisonous.

They get their name from the bell-shaped box that they have, and depending on the species, they may be as little as your thumbnail or as large as 12 inches with 10 foot tentacles. (Box jellies are also good swimmers; some can swim up to 4.6 mph!)

Box jellyfish are present across the world’s seas, including the Caribbean, Atlantic, and Pacific. The deadliest species are those found in Australia and the Indo-Pacific area.

Fortunately, they aren’t particularly prevalent in Florida, and the ones you do encounter there aren’t the very dangerous and horrifying variety you see in the Phillipines.

Even though they are uncommon in these places, you should still proceed with great caution if you come across one since their sting may be incredibly painful and they have the potential to result in a very serious and even fatal reaction.

Cannonball Jellyfish (Stomolophus meleagris)

The cannonball jellyfish is estimated to be nearly the same size as a conventional cannonball, measuring around 25 centimeters (ten inches) in diameter underwater.

In the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico, cabbagehead jellyfish, sometimes known as cannonball jellyfish, are common. They frequently have a brown rim hue. Under their mouth, they have a small group of oral arms that they may use for swimming and food capture.

The cannonball jelly is really a good swimmer, unlike many other jellies. On a scuba dive, they may be observed traveling at a rather decent underwater speed.

Small fish nearby will be rendered unconscious by the cannonball jelly’s discharge of poisons from its stinging cells. Fortunately, most individuals don’t seem to be affected by this, however if you were swimming really near to one, you could experience tingling. Certainly, marine turtles that like eating them are unaffected.

A sting and rash will appear where the cannonball contact occurred. Normally, this goes away on its own, but hydrocortisone therapy may be necessary. If you ever have the misfortune of getting stung in the eye, you should receive medical help right away.

In Florida, cannonball jellyfish frequently wash up on the shore, and they decay rather fast after being beached. In Japan, freshly caught fish is prized, but it’s important to know how to prepare them properly.

Pink Meanie

Only recently, in the early 2000s, was the pink meanie in the Gulf of Mexico. Ten years later, it was officially recognized as a distinct species, becoming the first jellyfish species to be formally defined since 1921.

This moon jellyfish cannibalistic jelly will cheerfully eat other jellyfish, mainly moon jellyfish.

With the help of its enormous, 70-foot-long tentacles, it can capture several victims at once! (A single pink meanie has been observed to contain up to 34 jellyfish!)

The pink meanie is an extremely huge jellyfish that may reach a diameter of 3 feet. It lives in the Gulf of Mexico and is occasionally sighted on Florida beaches, although it is still a rather uncommon jellyfish. So be sure to take a photo of this uncommon sight if you do manage to encounter one!

Mushroom Cap Jellyfish (Rhopilema verrilli)

The mushroom cap jellyfish is believed to have a bell that resembles a mushroom, and we can all see the similarities. The mushroom jelly’s bell can grow rather large, measuring up to 50 centimeters (20 inches) in diameter.

There are several typical colors available for the mushroom cap jellyfish. They may seem yellow, blue, brown, white, pink, or green when the bell light is on. Regardless of the primary hue, the edge of the mushroom jelly frequently has a light-brown tint.

The jellyfish in question lacks tentacles. To immobilize its planktonic meal, it possesses eight short, brown arms that are packed with stinging nematocysts within.

Even if a mushroom cap jellyfish brushes against you in the ocean, you probably won’t get stung since they don’t have exposed stinging cells. If you might be unlucky enough to touch the stinging cells within their bells, it would probably just be a very small sting.

The Gulf of Mexico shoreline frequently contains the mushroom cap jelly. Even in the winter, it is visible in the Chesapeake Bay.

Cassiopea (Upside Down Jellyfish)

The upside-down jellyfish is one of the most prevalent species of jellyfish in the Florida Keys and is frequently spotted in mangroves (Cassiopea).

As you can see, it gets its name from the fact that its tentacles point upward, giving the impression that it is upside down.

The tentacles of the upside-down jellyfish point upwards toward the sun as they gently pulse through the water before landing on the bottom.

The algae that dwells on the underside (tentacles) of this jelly gives the jellyfish food and nutrients, but it needs sunshine to do so. This explains why you may locate them in shallow, well-lit sections of mangroves and coastal environments, sometimes upside down.

An upside-down jellyfish’s sting is extremely minor, but it is also possible for them to hurt you even if they don’t touch you since they leak venomous mucus into the water that can harm you if you swim through it.

It’s probably advisable to avoid swimming through these poison bombs and to view them from a distance.

Mauve Stinger / Purple Jellyfish (Pelagia noctiluca)

The mauve stinger, commonly known as the purple jellyfish, is a little jellyfish found in the Gulf of Mexico and along the Atlantic coast. The Mediterranean Sea is well-known for having a jellyfish species that is a nuisance.

The jellyfish’s bell and tentacles might be mauve, pink, or purple in hue. The bell has a diameter that varies from three to 12 centimeters (1.2 to 5 inches). The mauve stinger features eight long, poisonous tentacles that the jelly employs to paralyze its target in addition to four feeding arms for eating.

The mauve stinger is unusual in that it possesses stinging nematocysts on both its bell and tentacles, so if you come in contact with one, you’ll probably know about it. You should avoid contact without protection since dead jelly that has dried up on the sand might sting you.

A medical specialist should handle mauve stinger stings. Strong red rash and swelling are also brought on by the discomfort, which can linger for up to two weeks. On rare occasions, the sufferer may also experience nausea, vomiting, and dizziness.

A bioluminescent jellyfish known as the mauve stinger may flash brightly when startled and is visible to the naked eye at night.

How to Protect Yourself From Jellyfish

Simply avoid touching any jellyfish that is on the beach if you spot one. Keep a sufficient distance away from any of our lengthier tentacled buddies indicated below in order to prevent contact with a wayward tentacle. A jellyfish can still harm you even after it has beached itself.

It’s a little trickier, but not impossible, to protect oneself against jellyfish while you’re in the water. Whether you’re diving, swimming, or surfing, occasionally a bloom or a jellyfish will simply happen to creep up on you by mistake.

You might need some armor in this situation. We’re probably already wearing a wetsuit if we’re diving or surfing because our jellyfish companions often come in colder waters (a great protection against stinging jellies).

However, occasionally we may encounter jellyfish in warmer seas, in which case a rashguard or skin suit may be the ideal protection while maintaining thermal comfort.

Gloves, boots, or dive hoods are some additional forms of safety. If you know you’re going somewhere with a lot of jellyfish, you can be completely protected that way.