Stinger jellyfish mystery

EXCLUSIVE

CSIRO scientists have been unable to identify what could be a new species of stinging jellyfish discovered in the Gippsland Lakes.

Long-time advocate for the health of the Gippsland Lakes, Ross Scott, found the jellyfish in waters at Duck Arm.

The resident of 54 years said he had never seen the species before and sent a specimen to the CSIRO for identification.

CSIRO jellyfish expert and research scientist Dr Lisa-ann Gershwin, based in Tasmania, said the species was most similar to one from New South Wales called Chrysaora wurlerra; however, one of the key characters for identification was absent in the specimen from Gippsland Lakes.

Very little is known about Chrysaora wurlerra — it was only named and classified by Dr Gershwin in 2008.

She said DNA testing would take place to try and determine where the Gippsland Lakes jellyfish originated from.

However she could say the jellyfish was in the Sea Nettle group, so was likely to sting.

Asked whether the jellyfish had been seen in the Gippsland Lakes before, how it might have migrated there or what sort of environment it might favour, Dr Gershwin said the CSIRO had not undertaken any studies into jellyfish populations in the Gippsland Lakes.

It was also not known what impact the jellyfish might have on the lakes system.

Mr Scott, who is also a former general manager of the Lake Wellington Rivers Management Authority, said similar jellyfish had been identified in New South Wales, southern Queensland and South Australia.

“The normal large jellyfish found in the lakes is the Moon Jelly Fish,” he said.

“The new find is a stinger; quite painful and is a member of the Sea Nettle family."

Mr Scott said this jellyfish family caused bloom problems around the world, affecting tourism.

He said it was able to eat fish larger than itself by digesting externally.

“The specimen of jellyfish found in the lakes cannot at this stage be positively identified, and appears new to science,” he said.

The specimen sent to the CSIRO for identification was captured in Duck Arm, about 30 kilometres west of the ocean entrance.

He said the species appeared new to Victorian waters and the Gippsland Lakes and had been observed entering the lakes on an incoming tide.

The Australian Resuscitation Council’s advice for jellyfish stings can be found at the website www.resus.org.au/policy/guidelines/section_9/jellyfish_stings.htm

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