Britain’s current plummeting temperatures could lead to another jellyfish invasion, experts in Birmingham have warned.
Last year a ‘mega swarm’ of jellyfish washed up on the UK coastline.
Now, thanks to extreme weather brought on by the ‘Beast from the East’, it’s feared a repeat invasion could be under way in months to come.
Jonny Rudd, curator at the National Sea Life Centre Birmingham, says weather conditions could again prove perfect this year for blooms of jellyfish to arrive on our shores.
He said: “With such intense winter conditions, it’s likely an extreme summer could follow. Scientists are concerned the ‘crazy’ current conditions are a prelude to more extreme and less predictable weather. This is where jellyfish thrive.”
“Just last week researchers from Newcastle University published a paper reporting on how floods, droughts and heatwaves are all set to become more common in Britain and the rest of Europe.
“Jellyfish flourish in conditions created by global warming, pollution and overfishing, as evidenced by their invasions onto UK coastlines as recently as last year.
“Jellies are superbly adapted to plug the gaps when other species decline, which is one reason why there have been such huge swarms of jellyfish appearing in recent years.
“Some scientists believe that jellyfish are even poised to take over the oceans one day.”
Last year thousands of giant jellyfish washed up on beaches in Cornwall and Wales.
Beachgoers were advised not to touch any of them as even a dead one can sting.
Jonny said this year tourists could be better prepared for large numbers of jellyfish.
He said: “If you do get stung, you’re advised to treat any pain or swelling with painkillers. If it gets a lot worse and you suffer difficulty breathing or chest pain, you should dial 999.”
Jonny is curator for a selection of jellyfish which are to star in a brand new permanent exhibition at the National Sea Life Centre, opening this Easter.
Months in the making, the new ‘Jelly Invaders’ exhibit will star five different jellyfish species from across the world, from the bizarre freshwater ‘upside down jellyfish’ to the glittering ‘sea nettle’ variety from the Indo-Pacific.
The unique creatures are the true Jekyll and Hydes of the marine world, with their harmless, tranquil appearance belying highly efficient hunting tactics and stingers.
The new experience will allow visitors to get a close encounter to these mystical creatures, with diverse species of jellies in a variety of colourful interactive displays.
Jonny added: “The new exhibit will really be lifting the lid on this mysterious species. Jellyfish are actually older than dinosaurs, as it’s believed they first swam in our oceans some 500 million years ago. With more than 350 different species, there’s a lot to uncover!”
Despite their name, jellyfish aren’t actually a type of fish and are instead classed in a group of their own, due to them being unlike any other creature on earth.
“But jellies get a bad press,” explains Jonny. “Most are completely harmless to humans; it’s only a few such as the sea nettle jellyfish that give them a bad name as they can cause a painful sting.”
Jelly Invaders opens at the National Sea Life Centre from Saturday 24th March and is included with all entry tickets. Guests can delve deeper into the jellyfish life cycle including the aquarium’s breeding programme on a Behind the Scenes Tour (additional charge of £3.50 applies).
The Merlin Entertainments-owned attraction is home to more than 2,000 aquatic inhabitants in over 60 immersive displays, including the UK’s only 360° tropical ocean tunnel.
For further information or to pre-book tickets online before your visit please go to www.sealife.co.uk/birmingham. Reduced prices are available for tickets booked in advance.
Image: Dorset Wildlife Trust