BBC Earth host Lizzie Daly and underwater photographer Dan Abbott released several videos of exciting encounters with marine animals off the English coast from July 7 to July 13, 2019. The pair swam alongside gray seals off the coast of Northumberland, minke whales off the northwest coast of Scotland, and seabirds near Wales. However, the highlight came on the final day of the tour, when the underwater adventurers stumbled upon a massive barrel jellyfish off the coast of Falmouth, Cornwall. The sighting of the mesmerizing animal was a fitting way to end Daly's "Wild Ocean Week" campaign to raise ocean awareness and funds for the UK's Marine Conservation Society.
Abbott, who captured a photo of the jellyfish swimming alongside Daly, estimates the animal was “about a meter and a half long, [and] probably half a meter in width.” The 32-year-old photographer later gushed, “It’s the biggest jellyfish I’ve ever seen, in some ways, I was shocked but not in a negative way, more awestruck. It was an incredible animal; we both came out the water completely mind blown from that experience.”
Daly and Abbott were not the only ones to see the magnificent jellyfish in the area. A few days earlier, on July 7, 2019, Cornwall resident Harry Chenoweth and his brother Jago came across a specimen while on a boat off Falmouth Harbor. Chenoweth, who captured the marine animal on his phone camera, estimates it was about half the size of his boat or about 6-feet long.
Barrel jellyfish are not a rare phenomenon in the waters around the UK. However, the massive creatures usually spend their time in the open seas. They only flock to warm, shallow coastal waters in summer when plankton blooms, their main food source, are in abundance. Unlike their smaller relatives, the strange-looking creatures have no trailing tentacles around the bell. Instead, their tiny, frill-like tentacles, which contain hundreds of small mouths, are clustered around eight thick arms, which extend out from the bell. Despite their menacing appearance, the ancient marine animals are gentle giants, whose stings are too weak to harm humans.
Though the barrel jellyfish is the largest of its kind to frequent the waters around the UK, it is not the world's largest jellyfish. That honor belongs to the lion's mane jellyfish, which can attain a bell diameter of over 2 meters, or almost 7 feet. Endemic to the cold waters of the Arctic, northern Atlantic, and North Pacific oceans, the magnificent creatures use their sticky tentacles to capture unsuspecting prey, which includes plankton, fish and smaller jellyfish. The tentacles, which resemble a lion's mane, can get up to 30 m (100 ft) long, making the marine creatures one of the world's longest-known animals. Similar to the barrel jellyfish, their stings are relatively harmless to humans, with most encounters causing temporary pain and localized redness.
Jellyfish are among the oldest and most simple animals on the planet. The ancient animals, which have been around for over 500 million years, have no brain, heart, or blood. Instead, they use a simple network of nerves to move their soft bodies, which comprise mostly water, through the oceans.
Resources: cornwallive.com, buglife.org.uk, wikipedia.org,