WILDWOOD — The clinging jellyfish has made its way to the southern most areas of the Jersey Shore much to the surprise of those who've been tracking them.

Paul Bologna, a professor of biology and molecular biology at Montclair State University, has been working with the state Department of Environmental Protection at tracking the transparent, tiny jellyfish, which made its first appearance in the state 2016 in the Manasquan and Shrewsbury rivers.

Clinging jellyfish have a red, orange or violet cross. Each jellyfish can have 60 to 90 tentacles that contain stinging cells capable of delivering painful neurotoxins. Clinging jellyfish primarily feed on zooplankton. The are not considered a threat to ocean swimmers but they can sting people wading in bays, rivers or tidal areas.

Bologna's team worked with the DEP to track their presence before Memorial Day in an effort to update the DEP's maps. Until now, the farthest south they've been located are Barnegat Bay.

The mother of a girl who was stocking her terrarium with crabs and algae in a tidal area in North Wildwood on Saturday noticed that the baby jellyfish she found looked a lot like the clinging jellyfish. She took a picture and sent it to Bologna to take a look.

"We went down there on Monday and sure enough in that little pond we picked up about 150 in an hour. I certainly was not expecting to see that," Bologna told the Townsquare News Network. "It was a complete surprise."

He said the area where it was found is a salt pond and compared it to similar bodies of water on Martha's Vineyard where the clinging jellyfish were first found.  Their discovery might also mean that the could be in other back bay areas as well as salt ponds along the coast.

Bologna said their discovery was troubling because they were found on an ocean beach front area where people walk.

"From Sandy Hook to Cape May, there's no place that I can dependably say you're not going to see them except for Lake Hopatcong. Anything is kind of open," Bologna said.

Until now the clinging jellyfish usually attach themselves to submerged aquatic vegetation and algae in back bays and estuaries and are not commonly found on the beach. The possibility exists that some recent higher-than-usual tides may have brought the clinging jellyfish to the area but as a precaution signs are posted to make people aware.

Bologna credited his New Jersey Jellyspotters Facebook page for making him aware.

"The public sees this stuff and lets us know. And then we can investigate when it looks really credible," he said.

If stung by a clinging jellyfish, the DEP recommends:

  • Apply white vinegar to the affected area to immobilize any remaining stinging cells.
  • Rinse the area with salt water and remove any remaining tentacle materials using gloves or a thick towel. A hot compress or cold pack can then be applied to alleviate pain.
  • If symptoms persist or pain increases, seek prompt medical attention

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