Purple flags fly all along the Gulf Coast, from Fort Morgan, Alabama, to Panama City, Florida. Beach officials warn residents of a species of jellyfish called pink meanies. They were initially discovered in the Gulf Coast in 2000, and scientists identified them as a new species in 2011. Pink meanies tend to drift to beaches along the Gulf Coast every 10–12 years; this year they are drawn in by one of their favorite meals: moon jellyfish. In the meantime, beach-goers need to watch their step.
Pink Meanies Appear Along the Gulf Coast
The Drymonema larsoni, commonly known as pink meanies, are a pretty color but they are not to be messed with. They are carnivorous with stinging tentacles that could grow up to 70 feet long. In 2000, a pink meanie found on Dauphin Island weighed upwards of 50 pounds. They are not considered dangerous to people but their sting can become painful.
Escambia County’s Deputy Water Safety Chief Alex Johnson says there have been over 100 sightings of the jellyfish since the beginning of October, although many more could have gone unreported. The stings included in these reports have all been minor.
In 2011, a scientist at the Dauphin Island Sea Lab (DISL) identified pink meanies not just as a new kind of jellyfish but as an entirely new species. Back in 2000, experts found the pink meanies in the Gulf and assumed they were jellyfish native to the Mediterranean. However, after more intensive research, including genetic fingerprinting, they identified them as the unique species of Drymonema larsoni.
Former DISL post-doctoral student Keith Bayha was the one who discovered and named the new species in 2011. He has since worked as a jellyfish research collaborator at the Smithsonian Institute National Museum of Natural History. But in the early 2000s, he was just a graduate student at the University of Delaware. Monty Graham at the DISL had recorded the first sightings of the pink meanies, and he sent samples to the younger Bayha. “I tried to use them for a study I was doing on the Lion’s Mane Jellyfish, whose family the pink meanie previously belonged to, but they were too different,” Bayha explained.
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