A rare giant jellyfish may have made its debut Sunday at a beach in south Laguna Beach, where people were reported to have suffered stings.
Some beach-goers came ashore with dark membranes clinging to their bodies, Laguna Beach Lifeguard Chief Jason Young said.
From the color, experts determined the animals could be rare black jellies, or Black sea nettles.
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Photos: Giant Jellyfish Up Close
Black jellies were first named in 1997, but pictures of the massive elusive creatures have appeared as early as 1926, according to the Monterey Bay Aquarium Animal Guide. Black sea nettles' bells can be 3 feet in diameter, and their tentacles can grow up to 25 feet.
Though the stings may be painful, they are not harmful to humans, said Nate Jaros, assistant curator at Aquarium of the Pacific.
"It feels like a bee sting," he said. "Some people may have an allergic reaction, but the stings are not dangerous."
If stung, Jaros recommends beachgoers use vinegar or anything with high acidity to counteract the venom produced by the jelly's tentacles. He said the old wives' tale that using urine to combat a sting is true, but not necessary.
"I'd rather deal with a little irritation rather than have a buddy pee on me," he said.
Much about the species’ behavior and life cycle remains a mystery since its whereabouts during most years are unknown.
Nigela Hillgarth, of Birch Aquariam in San Diego, said warmer ocean temperatures may have brought the jellyfish closer to shore in search of prey. Closer to the coast, they were caught by the current and thrown ashore, she said.
The jellyfish were seen at Thousand Steps Beach in Laguna Beach, pictured below.
Black jellyfish tentacles can grow longer than 25 feet, but they aren’t known for preying on humans as they only eat a diet of plankton and other jellies, the animal guide said.
The jellyfish were last reported to have been seen in Southern California when they invaded San Diego’s coastline in August 2012.
Photo credit: flickr/Flannery626
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