Lee County, Fla. -- If you've spent any time near the Gulf of Mexico, then you've seen a jellyfish or two. Maybe you have even had the displeasure of receiving a sting. Well now, a new jellyfish is in town but it may not be all bad.
Sunday morning, News-Press partner Kevin Lollar sat down with Meteorologist Katie Walls to talk about the "pink meanie", a rather large jellyfish we found in the Gulf several weeks ago. Lollar first captured the pink meanie on camera in 2008 and began delving into the history of the unique creature.
Experts originally believed the pink meanie to be an exotic species, meaning it didn't belong in the Gulf. Now scientists think it is native to southwest Florida but only shows up when there are big blooms of moon jellyfish, the pink meanie's favorite food.
Jellyfish expert Monty Graham of the University of South Alabama explained to Lollar in 2008 that pink meanies' feasting on moon jellyfish could in theory help the fish population. Moon jellyfish, also known as Aurelia aurita, "are predators of zooplankton, including fish larvae and eggs, and if you get so many moon jellies cleaning out the water, the spawning fish have to put out a lot of larvae or be fortunate enough to put eggs in water away from Aurelia," says Graham.
While moon jellies are usually 11 to 16 inches in diameter, pink meanies can be three feet across or even bigger! Their angel hair-like tentacles extend about 100 feet into the deep blue water. And yes, they do sting, as Lollar discovered on more than one occasion.
"I got a couple. The first time in 2008 and this time. To me they're little zaps, but people react differently...my suggestion is if you're sensitive to that kind of stuff don't get near them." He continues that if you're adventurous and don't mind a little "zap" jump on in.