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Rare jellyfish appears in San Diego Bay

July 14, 2010 | 10:24 am

A rare species of jellyfish, distinguishable by its black color and long tentacles, is being spotted along a stretch of San Diego Bay popular with boaters.

With the formal name of Chrysaora achlyos, the so-called "black jellyfish" range from Monterey Bay to the tip of Baja California and seem to be making increasing appearances in San Diego-area waters, perhaps because the water is getting warmer.

This summer, they have been spotted near Shelter Island.

Stepping on the jellyfish, or otherwise coming into contact with one, can be a painful experience. The creatures have nettles that sting and immobilize their prey. Even a dead jellyfish carries a sting -- not enough to kill a human, but enough to be unpleasant.

The jellyfish's body can measure 3 feet in diameter, and the tentacles can be 25 feet or more in length.

So far, none of the black jellyfish has shown up at the city's more popular swimming areas, such as Mission Bay, said lifeguard Lt. Nick Lerma.

City beaches do get other varieties of jellyfish, and occasionally a swimmer or beach-goer is stung, Lerma said. But local jellyfish do not have the wallop of those found in the tropical waters of Australia and Asia.

"We have the annoy-you jellyfish, not the kill-you ones," Lerma said.

-- Tony Perry in San Diego