CoCoNet Press Release June 2014
A NEW JELLYFISH SPECIES IN THE GULF OF VENICE DISCOVERED BY COCONET TEAM!
The CoCoNet partner scientists in Italy have discovered a new species of jellyfish in the Gulf of Venice. This medusa is an alien (not native) species to the Mediterranean Sea. (See the original article in Zootaxa at http://dx.doi.org/10.11646/zootaxa.3794.3.7)
Sightings of this beautiful yellow jellyfish in the North Adriatic Sea in last autumn were reported through a citizen science initiative, said Prof. Ferdinando Boero, the coordinator of the CoCoNet project. The team decided its name as Pelagia benovici, after a late Croatian colleague, Prof. Adam Benovic, based on both morphological and genetic analyses.
They found that it is similar to Pelagia noctiluca, a mauve jellyfish known for its venomous stings, which wiped out a 100,000-strong salmon farm in Northern Ireland in 2007. Could this new species pose the same kind of threat? "We really don't know because there have not been many investigations besides what it is. What it does is a completely different story," said Boero. More investigations are needed to understand its ecology and life history, as well as possible impacts on native ecosystem and human activities.
Quite how Pelagia benovici got to the North Adriatic and settled within the Venice lagoon remains a mystery. Experts think it was probably introduced to the area in the ballast water of ships. In the 1980s, Mnemiopsis leidyi, a kind of comb jellyfish known as the sea walnut, was introduced into the Black Sea via the ballast water of ships from the North Atlantic. Its bloom caused a dramatic decline in the local fish populations in the late 1980's resulting in millions of dollars loss for the fishing community.
Another important aspect of this finding is the contribution of citizen science. General public can have a significant role by participating such a project. Experts encourage public to report any strange jellyfish seen while they are at sea. See the poster below for jellyfish identification. They should also be careful in case those beautiful creatures are stingy!