Fear not. The pink meanie does not necessarily live up to its name.The jellyfish, officially known as drymonema larsoni and identified as a completely new species in 2011, has been floating up to …
Fear not. The pink meanie does not necessarily live up to its name.
The jellyfish, officially known as drymonema larsoni and identified as a completely new species in 2011, has been floating up to Baldwin County beaches in recent days causing beachgoers to fear its potential sting as they stand back to catch a photo of the floating, pink piles of goo.
The man who discovered them, Keith Bayha, has taken one for the team, so to speak, and let the creature sting him.
How did it rate?
"It wasn't all that bad," Bayha said. He explained that the creature eats other jellyfish, meaning it doesn't need a potent or painful sting to subdue its prey.
But that was just a quick sting.
A swimmer who accidentally runs into a large pink meanie and is stung by hundreds of its tentacles all at once might laugh heartily at Bayha's assessment.
Pink meanies can be big - growing nearly three feet wide and weighing up to 50 pounds, making it easy to avoid those hundreds of 70-foot-long tentacles.
"The biggest issue with jellyfish is you don't see or notice the small ones that pack a big wallop and that you can't see to avoid. Drymonema is so big that you could probably avoid it," Bayha said.
Had Bayha not had his eyes wide-open he would have never discovered the pink meanie.
Bayha first spotted a similar jellyfish on a beach in Turkey. He captured the creature and brought it home to study at the University of Delaware.
He compared it to other jellyfish and especially to those that looked just like it that began appearing occasionally in the Gulf of Mexico. Bayha worked at Dauphin Island Sea Lab from 2004 - 2007 and never saw a single one float into Mobile Bay. Still, the work continued and ten years later scientists were able to declare the two jellyfish related but different. The pink meanie was declared an entirely new family of jellyfish.
At the time experts said it was rare for a species to go undetected for that long. While the pink meanie isn't necessarily rare, it isn't seen in large numbers, in the same place, frequently, making it harder to study.
The species Bayha collected in Turkey, which is related to the pink meanie hadn't been recorded since the middle of the 20th century.
"That didn't mean it hadn't been seen by anyone, just by anyone who would know what it was. Since then, it has been seen multiple times," Bayha said. "This doesn't mean that it is occurring more… just that it is being noticed by people who would know what it is more."
The jellyfish show up in large numbers, like they are now, only about every 10 years. Generally, they follow large populations of moon jellies which is their favorite meal.
And that pink color? Who knows.
"We can't say for sure," said Bayha who now works at a research collaborator at the Smithsonian Institute National Museum of Natural History. "Color in jellyfish is a strange thing. It may come from their diet, but it may just be genetic. We don't really know with the pink meanie."