A Caribbean box jellyfish has reached Australian shores for the first time.
The female jellyfish, tripedalia cystophora, which lives in mangroves and is normally found in Jamaica, was discovered in a canal on Queensland’s Gold Coast, 17 kilometres from the ocean, in January this year.
Others have been found in the Philippines, Indonesia and Japan, as well as South America, but the Australian find is the southern-most place they have appeared.
News of the find was revealed in the online journal by the Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom. Merrick Ekins from the Queensland Museum, and Lisa Gershwin from the CSIRO Marine and Atmospheric Research in Hobart, published their study into the discovery and believe the jellyfish could be used for tracking the climate-related movements of animals.
“They are excellent navigators using visual clues through the surface of the water to navigate back to the mangroves when washed out [and]… they are excellent swimmers and it will be interesting to see if they become more readily reported just in mangroves or in easily spotted canals such as the Gold Coast waterways,” their study says .
And according to the scientists we could start to seeing more overseas visitors.
It could be “the start of a pelagic movement of these box jellyfish to new waters, remains to be seen, indeed it may be part of a larger now resident population,” they say.
While they are unsure as to how it first arrived here, they believe there could be more around other parts of the country.
“Either way, one would have suspected unless it was transported via international shipping ballast water, that it would have been noticed in tropical Northern Australia first.”
Unlike the Australian box jellyfish, the Caribbean species is smaller and while is not lethal, does carry a painful sting. And while the local discovery is cause for excitement, the population in Kingston Harbour, Jamaica, has been locally extinct for many years due to development.
Here a look at the distribution patterns of the jellyfish so far.
Read the full journal here.