Have you ever been stung by a sea nettle jellyfish in the Barnegat Bay? Turns out the culprit was likely a newly identified jellyfish, the Atlantic bay nettle (Chrysaora chesapeakei), and not a sea nettle (Chrysaora quinquecirrha). The sea nettle is one of the most common and well-studied jellyfish species along the east coast. For more than 175 years, scientists treated both ocean and bay populations of sea nettles as a single species. However, researchers using genetic testing have now shown that in fact they are two distinct, distantly-related species.
The sea nettle is found in the ocean, while the newly recognized bay nettle species is found in the less salty waters of estuaries like the Barnegat Bay. Sea nettles are generally larger and have more tentacles than bay nettles. A surprising finding by the researchers is that the bay nettle here is more closely related to jellyfish off the coasts of Ireland, Argentina, and Africa than to the sea nettles just off our own coast.
Scientists will continue to study these two jellyfish species to get a better understanding of their differences, including habitat requirements. Further research may also provide information that can be used to manage the impacts of large jellyfish populations in coastal waters.
Read more about this important discovery on the NOAA National Marine Fisheries Service website.