Secrets of sea jellies

(Photos by Stephanie Blair)

Did you know jellyfish aren’t fish at all? They’re more accurately referred to as “sea jellies” and are classified as plankton, meaning they are “drifters” who go where the current pushes them.

“They’re really neat animals,” said Sally Compton, communications and marketing manager of the Oregon Coast Aquarium. “They don’t have bones, brains, — really anything. And they’ve actually been around longer than sharks or prehistoric animals.”

In the fall, it’s not uncommon to see a large number of sea jellies washed up on the beach after a big storm.

“We always recommend that you don’t touch them,” said Compton, “because, even though you can touch moon jellies at the aquarium, it’s really hard to know exactly what species of jellyfish that you might be looking at on the beach.”

Compton said there’s also no need to call anyone to help the jelly, though you can send a photo to the aquarium through Facebook or email if you’d like them to I.D. the species. And if you are stung by a sea jelly, don’t be fooled by old wives’ tales.

“The age-old question: should you pee on a jelly sting? The answer is no,” said Compton.

Instead, she recommends washing the sting with saltwater — not freshwater — and then apply vinegar to neutralize the sting. Unless it’s a sea nettle sting, then baking soda will do the work of vinegar.

Anyone who would like to safely touch a sea jelly can get an up-close and personal look at moon jellies as part of the Oregon Coast Aquarium’s “Sea Jelly Touch Encounter,” which is available each Friday at 2 p.m.

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