A potentially dangerous Portuguese man-o-war or blue bottle (Physalia physalis) jellyfish was spotted off Xlendi last weekend and reported to the authorities as the Spot the Jellyfish study got underway.

Portuguese man-o-war are rare around Malta, and the International Ocean Institute and the University of Malta, which are conducting the study said that most of the reported sightings involved large numbers of the common mauve stinger (Pelagia noctiluca) and of the harmless by-the-wind sailor (Velella velella) which is in fact a floating colonial hydroid colony with its own sail.

The study, headed by Alan Deidun and Aldo Drago, kicked off at the weekend and Dr Deidun said jellyfish sightings had poured in. Reports can be submitted either through email (ioi-moc@um.edu.mt), sms (79222278), through the dedicated website (www.ioikids.net/jellyfish) or by mailing the leaflets being distributed on selected beaches.

The dedicated website is replete with interesting snippets about jellyfish. It also contains a map of the Maltese Islands giving an updated geographic distribution of all jellyfish sightings coming in.

"The aim of the initiative, which is conducted in a large number of other countries, is not to scare locals and tourists off the beach but to gather much needed scientific records and to generate public awareness about the ecological role played by jellyfish and the changing nature of our seas."

All jellyfish records received will eventually be published after the end of the bathing season.

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