Giant UK jellyfish reports may be erroneous

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Recent reports of giant 30 metre long, poisonous jellyfish lurking off the coast of Cornwall may have been erroneous.

Several newspapers reported at the weekend that the String jellyfish, also known as the Pearl-chain jellyfish (Apolemia uvaria) had been spotted off the coast of Plymouth and Land s End by tour operator Rory Goodall and photographer Neil Hope.

Previously this species has only been known in the deep waters off the coasts of Norway and the Mediterranean.

This pinkish jellyfish forms long strings of up to 30 metres long and is toxic enough to kill large fish. In 1997 a mass occurrence of string jellyfish caused lesions and death in a large number of cultivated salmon.

The reports this weekend varied from jellyfish measuring 15-25 cm long through to 3 metres in the case of Mr Goodall.

However, it transpires that Dr Keith Hiscock at the Marine Biological Association has been aware of this species off the coast of Plymouth for a number of weeks.

Dr Hiscock has photographed and collected specimens from it and has been unable to positively identify it as Apolemia uvaria.

He stated that there was cause for concern for a positive identification as A. uvaria as crucial parts needed for accurate identification are missing and added:

"As for stinging, several of us put our fingers into the pot and no-one felt a sting - I suppose we should have draped it across our lips but ...."

Dr Gill Mapstone at the Natural History Museum who was responsible for re-describing the String jellyfish in 2003 has also been unable to positively identify these specimens as Apolemia uvaria.