Hundreds of huge, Jell-O-like blobs covering a Georgia beach was enough to stop one woman in her tracks.
Beachgoer Jodi Moody was visiting Tybee Island on Friday when she spotted what could only be described as a “jellyfish jamboree,” WJCL reported. Hundreds upon hundreds of cannonball jellyfish had washed up on the north end of the island, lining the coast for several yards, according to photos posted by Moody.
“I’ve never seen this many at once,” she wrote on Facebook. Her photos have been shared more than 1,600 times as of Monday.
Cannonballs, also called “cabbagehead jellyfish,” are one of the most prominent jellyfish species on the southeastern coast of the U.S., comprising “over 16% of biomass on the coastline” during certain seasons, according to the Georgia Department of Natural Resources. Experts say it’s not uncommon to see the sea jellies wash up on beaches this time of year.
“It’s a matter of when the winds and currents are just right,” Carolyn Belcher, chief of marine fisheries for the department’s Coastal Resources Division, told McClatchy News. “The [jellyfish] are abundant off of our waters in late winter, early spring. So it’s not surprising that this is the timing of it.”
Moody said the winds were strong the day she discovered the stranded jellies, WJCL reported, and said she suspects that’s what may have caused them to wash ashore.
According to Belcher, jellyfish rely mainly on water and tides for their movement. She said easterly winds have helped push them inland in recent weeks.
“And then once they get into that tidal area where the waves start picking them up, the waves then carry them in,” she added.
So what should you do if you come across a cannonball jellyfish? Don’t panic. While cannonballs have tentacles like any other jellyfish, the likelihood that they’ll sting is next to none, Belcher said.
They’re also much firmer compared to their gelatinous counterparts and have much shorter tentacles than other species of jellyfish.
Beachgoers should still be careful, however, because the tide can bring in a variety of jellies — including those that can “pack a punch.”
“Similar winds can bring things like Portuguese man o’ war in,” Belcher said. “You can have mixed batches of jellyfish. So if anybody is interested in kind of rifling through them, just be mindful there could other jellyfish in there, too.”