Rare Australian jellyfish spotted off the coast of San Diego's South Bay, a long way from home, may have been swept up north by El Nino currents.
Researchers at the Living Coast Discovery Center received a tip Thursday saying there were dozens of jellyfish swimming right along the Chula Vista shoreline.
But when crews arrived, they didn’t find the moon jellies native to the San Diego area they had been expecting.
Instead, they found Australian Spotted Jellies, a rare type native to the western side of the Pacific Ocean.
“What they’re doing here is kind of a mystery,” said Education and Guest Experience Manager Elizabeth Argyle with the center in Chula Vista. The center is housing the jellyfish for the time being.
The jellyfish, found scattered throughout the South Bay, are known to sting humans, but the sting generally just leaves a burning sensation and is not harmful, she said.
Scientists believe the jellyfish may have been swept up to San Diego in El Nino currents.
“During an El Nino year, there’s usually warm water currents that come across our Pacific Ocean and that can bring other organism such as these jellyfish, which are kind of a drifter and kind of at the mercy of a current,” Argyle said.
Argyle said scientists also speculate they may have gotten stuck to the bottom of a boat and been pulled all the way to San Diego or may have reached local shores some other way.
“The reason they are surviving is because South San Diego Bay has warm waters in the area,” she said.
The center is working to put the jellyfish on display. She said they should be on display in the near future.