Invasive jellyfish washes up on Padre Island National Seashore

While harmless to swimmers, the Australian Spotted Jellyfish can hurt local wildlife

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – The Padre Island National Seashore says it recently received a “not-so-welcome visitor.”

The invasive Australian Spotted Jellyfish, or Phyllorhiza punctata, was spotted on North Beach, PINS said in a Facebook post.

While the brown, white-spotted jellyfish is generally harmless to humans, it is considered a threat to local wildlife.

“Unfortunately, these jellies are invasive in the Gulf of Mexico and in great numbers can consume large quantities of zooplankton, making it hard for local marine wildlife to find food,” PINS said in the post.

One Australian Spotted Jellyfish can span up to 20 inches in diameter, and they travel in large groups.

Their venom is mild, PINS said, so they don’t affect people or sting their prey, PINS said. Instead, they are “filter feeders” that eat zooplankton and larval fish.

The jellyfish compete with fish and shrimp for food, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Texas Invasive Species Institute.

Because of their size, they can clog nets, negatively impacting the shrimping and fishing industries.

“In the Gulf, this invader has formed huge swarms in recent years. Each jellyfish can clear 50 cubic meters of water filled with plankton in one day, making dense aggregations of Australian spotted jellyfish dangerous because they can alter food webs in the water column.” the Texas Invasive Species Institute states.

The species was first spotted in the U.S. in 1981 in California, and it was first seen in Texas in 2006 in Galveston, according to the Smithsonian Institution.

It is native to Australia, the Philippines and other areas in the western Pacific Ocean.

“The polyp stage of this species, which buds off to develop juvenile jellyfish, could be transported to our region on ship hulls. With this jellyfish being found in California waters over to the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic waters it is a threat to Texas’ coastal ecosystems,” the Texas Invasive Species Institute states.

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Rebecca Salinas joined KSAT in the fall of 2019. Her skills include content management, engagement and reporting.