The other day we had a diver on the boat, a good diver and a very nice woman, who came across the “Most Feared Sea Creature in Key Largo”….and even came in physical contact with it!!! (More on the outcome of this encounter later in the article…)
Now perhaps just hearing this word has sent you into nervous tremors? Perhaps you won’t be able to sleep tonight just because I’ve brought this fearsome sea monster up??? Who cares about things like sharks, moray eels, or stingrays when this ravenous, man-eating monster is around…right???
OK, so I’m exaggerating a bit about this gelatinous blob, but you might not know it from the reactions of divers and snorkelers we’ve seen over the years. Seriously, it is always a bit shocking, and a bit humorous I have to admit, seeing people’s reaction if/when a Jellyfish is sighted. We have seen people literally scream upon sighting one of these monstrous little beasts. I have seen grown men leave the water and not get back in because they saw one while diving, (true). We have had snorkelers not get in the water at all during an entire afternoon after they simply heard someone say they saw one, (true). I think it really is the most feared Sea Creature to many Key Largo divers and snorkelers! Why? Should it be feared? Will they attack you? How bad is their sting, really? Will they swim you down and sting you?
According to “Jellyfish Facts” web site, (yes, it really exists), as far as the sting of the dreaded moon Jelly; “They normally do not sting human species. But they do use their tentacles to sting other prey and little fishes for food. Even if they were to sting humans accidentally, all it will do is leave a small rash as their cnidoblasts aren’t powerful enough to penetrate human skin tissues, but most of the times these stings can hardly be felt at all”
Granted, there are species that can penetrate human flesh, and can cause bad reactions and pain. But the most common one, (by far), found here in Key Largo, the Moon, is also one of the most benign. Key Largo is lucky in this, as there are some much bigger, scarier ones found around the world. There are certain times of year here where we do see some Portugeuse Man-O-War’s, which have tenacles that do sting and hurt. When these are around, they are on the surface, so managing them is by far easier, and stings are pretty rare.
What does the sting of a Moon Jelly feel like? Have you ever been bitten by a mosquito? Very similar indeed. And while we are not suggesting hugging the next one you see, it is good to understand that Moon Jellies cannot control where they go, they just float with the currents. If you are careful not to push them or swish water into them, you will not feel the dreaded “mosquito bites”. We even have a few long-time Underwater Photographers who love to photograph them as they are actually very beautiful.
So what was the outcome of the woman I told you about at the beginning of this article who came in contact with a Moon Jelly? She was calm about it as she told me she ran directly into it and should she be worried? I asked her if she felt pain and she said, “not really pain, just some kind of tingling on my arm”. I told her that “the “sting” is benign and is similar to a mosquito bite” in my opinion. She actually agreed with me and I put some vinegar on the area and she did her next dive and never said another word about it, (other than that the dives were very good that day). Very cool diver.
Maybe the next time you are diving off the reefs of Key Largo with Sea Dwellers Dive Center and come across one perhaps you might consider seeing it in a different light. I can’t help but think that the ‘ol saying; “We have nothing to fear but fear itself” certainly applies to the under-appreciated, misunderstood Moon Jellyfish. Heck, maybe you’ll even enjoy the encounter and appreciate it’s beauty as a part of Mother’s Nature’s amazing web of life!