Steer clear of these drifters!

You’ll see lions mane jellyfish in the water and on the beaches around Saltspring Island. And you’ll definitely notice them when you do happen upon them. The Lion’s Mane is believed to be the largest of the jellyfish species.

Their preference for surface waters (less than 20m deep) increases the likelihood of encountering one when swimming, boating, or just hangin’ on the beach. So here’s what you need to know about this fascinating but dangerous sea creature…

Physical Features

The Lion’s Mane jellyfish is so named because of the long, trailing tentacles which resemble the flowing mane of a lion. Indeed, they are vicious like a lion can be. Although the jellyfish’s lack of a brain suggests that his attacks aren’t premeditated like the stalking, pouncing lion.

They drift about, riding the tides, eating zooplankton, fish eggs, larvae and other itty bitty sea creatures. They fill their ‘bell’ with sea-water and force it out quickly to propel themselves through the currents.

The body of a Lions Mane jellyfish is scarcely more than water. 95% in fact, is water. No bones, no blood, no heart. And that seems to be working just fine for this species which has been around for the past 650 million years.

The Ouch Factor

Jellyfish washed up on beachThe Lion’s Mane jellyfish delivers a painful sting which can cause severe burns. And they don’t even need to be present to do it. The flowing tentacles (up to 3m in length) are made up mostly of stinging cells (nematocysts).

These cells inject venom into a victim and they remain active even after departing from the jellyfish. So, sections of tentacle that get caught up on objects underwater can still effectively sting. Even dead, washed up jellies can deliver a sting if there is still moisture in the cells.

TREATMENT

The Golden Shower?

You’ve likely heard the suggestion that urinating on a jellyfish sting will be helpful. Myth or reality?

The general consensus in our research is that opinions lean toward this being a legitimate remedy for a jellyfish sting. The ammonia present in urine has disinfectant properties and may help neutralize some of the toxin from the sting.

However, the reality, medically speaking, is that the risk of viral or bacterial infection from urine (even your own) makes this a risky practice.

After a sting, there can be nematocysts left behind on the skin that, if triggered, can increase the severity of the sting. Removing these cells without provoking their hostile potential is paramount in treating a jellyfish sting.

Avoid putting any pressure on the wound as pressure will set off the remaining active cells. Also, be sure not to touch the wound with your bare hands. Use a towel or sand to brush off the surface of the wound and then rinse it with either vinegar, rubbing alcohol or sea water. Don’t use fresh water as that activates the stinging cells.

The pain of a Lions Mane jellyfish sting will diminish over time, depending on the severity. In rare cases, victims of jellyfish toxin will have an anaphylactic reaction. If signs of allergy appear (rash, shortness of breath, severe swelling), contact emergency services immediately.

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