Jellyfish are plentiful in the ocean and South Padre Island has its share of them.
Fish are fish but what are jellyfish? They are not a fish. They are not even close to being like a fish. But that is how things get named in the sea. Much like a Dolphin being called a Porpoise when they are very different animals, we have local names for our creatures. We are satisfied with the terms we all grew up with and that is why scientific names in Latin are important when you want to be sure everyone is talking about the same subject..

The jellyfish we call a cabbage head, with the scientific name of Stomolophus meleagris, bob around quite harmlessly growing up to the size of a soccer ball. The cabbage head is a great source of food for certain sea turtles and host a variety of fish in around their mushroom like caps. During summer months they grow in size and wash up on shore to provide food for many beach creatures and birds. Our dolphins are often seen playing with them as if they were a ball. They toss them back and forth between each other or push them around on their tip of their mouths. Picking up one of these fine jellyfish won’t sting like other jellyfish do. They are beautiful to watch as they pulsate thru the water ever so slowly.

Portuguese man-o-war and Portuguese man-o-war fish in the fish bowl.
These fish live in the tentacles of the man-o-war
and are immune to its sting.

The moon jelly ( Aurelia aurita) also washes ashore in large groups and look like a flat clear pancake with a pink four leaf clover shape inside of it, which is its stomach. They have very short tentacles and are not as harmful as the sea nettle. The sea nettle is a jellyfish that has long tentacles and can give quite a sting. There are tiny hyperdermic type needles called nematocysts, along the tentacles, which fire off on contact and inject a substance that would normally incapacitate a fish. For the human flesh it stings like fire. Another jellyfish that packs a wallop is a sea wasp (Chiropsalmus quadrumanus).

True to its name it is like being stung by wasps when coming into contact with its tentacles.
Some jellies light up and are luminescent. The sea walnut (Beroe ovata) is the size of a large pecan and if put in a cup of water and watch carefully, the beautiful rows of colored lights glow in a wave up and down the sides of the creature. They are easily overlooked they are so clear and small.
Jellyfish are not too much of a problem here on South Padre but do watch out for the purple bubble the Portuguese Man O War. Its long purple tentacles sting with no mercy. It’s best to just look and not touch these beautiful creatures. We don’t want to have close encounters of the stinging kind when around the ocean, but jellyfish are wonderfully beautiful and mysterious creatures of the sea.

Portuguese Man-O-War
Photo Nancy Patterson

( note: first aid for jellyfish - rinse with fresh water, in most cases the sting may be treated with vinegar and unseasoned meat tenderizer mixed in a paste, applied directly to the sting. Reactions vary in individuals.)

Scarlet and George Colley of South Padre Island's "Fins to Feathers" have been filming and documenting their dolphins for eight years. They operate a tour business on the Island and write seven articles a month for local papers on the nature of the Island.

Cell Phone: (956) 739-BIRD [2473] Home Phone: (956) 761-7178 Email: