One of the coolest parts of visiting a Texas beach is the interaction with the local wildlife. Besides the common turtle and bird, our beaches are also home to many different types of jellyfish and beautiful hydrozoans. However, while it may be tempting to touch or play with these creatures, there are a few things to know to avoid harming yourself or the animals.
Get to know the Texas jellyfish!
The most common Texas jellyfish isn’t even technically a jellyfish at all! The Portuguese Man-O-War is known to wash up on the South Padre and Galveston beaches, adding a beautiful purple-blue hue to the normal sandy aesthetic. They were likely named after a European navy warship that was called a “Man of War” that tended to bob on the water like their aquatic companions.
While these marine siphonophores can be beautiful to admire, they are also dangerous predators. The Portuguese Man-O-War can have tentacles up to 15 meters in length, often coiled like ribbons to make them perfect for catching small fish and other, similar aquatic life. These same tentacles also help protect against Purple Storm Snails and Sea Turtles that prey on them.
Texas beaches are also home to the moon jellyfish and cannonball jellyfish. Though not as common as the Portuguese Man-O-War, these jellyfish behave similarly in that they often display bright, beautiful colors and can wash up on Texas shores.
What are they doing here?
Jellyfish and Man-O-War tend to be fast but fairly weak swimmers, which makes it hard for them to swim against currents. Because most of their prey end up near the coastline, jellyfish often need to swim in shallower waters, making it harder for them to avoid harsh currents or waves that may leave them stranded on the shore.
Stronger than normal winds also plague jellyfish, as their dorsal sails make it easy for them to be carried away. Scientists have also suggested that changing water temperatures cause jellyfish and Man-O-War to migrate closer to beaches, and they are therefore more susceptible to being washed up by the tide.
What should I do if I see one?
As with most marine life, jellyfish do not often play nice with humans. If you spot one washed-up on the shore, the best course of action is to keep away. Jellyfish and Man-O-War tentacles can be venomous even after their death, meaning that even unmoving jellyfish can be extremely dangerous. Try to stay far away from any beach area with jellyfish or Man-O-War.
What if I get stung?
If you are stung by either of these creatures, the first step is to try to scrape the tentacles off with a credit card or driver’s license. Afterward, apply hot water to the area, making sure not to rub. Then, you can apply hydrocortisone cream to stop any itching that might occur.
Another course of treatment is to apply salt water and an unseasoned meat tenderizer. Do not press the skin after applying this paste.
If any other interaction occurs, seek medical attention.
Enjoy Texas Beaches!
No matter which Texas beach you choose, you are sure to have an awesome, rewarding time with your family and friends. The Portuguese Man-O-War, the moon jellyfish, and the cannonball jellyfish are only a few of the animals you may get to see if you visit.