(Above) Barrel Jellyfish © Julie Hatcher
(Below) Bottlenose Dolphins, Squid eggs & Elysia viridis seaslug © Julie Hatcher
The barrel jellyfish, Rhizostoma pulmo, that kept us entertained for the best part of last year, are back in abundance. Divers and boaters have been collecting amazing film and photos of them in recent weeks around Dorset. Stormy weather in May has resulted in mass strandings on the shore. These are the biggest jellyfish found in Channel waters measuring up to 1m across the bell although their sting is mild as they feed on the tiniest of prey, plankton.
Keep up to date with the latest jellyfish sightings
At the end of April there was a great deal of excitement when a pair of common dolphins spent the morning swimming around the boats in Weymouth Harbour. While this was a rare opportunity for many people to see these charismatic animals it was worrying to find this species so close to shore as they are normally found much further offshore. However both animals returned to open water after a few hours leaving their visit a bit of a mystery. A group of around 20 bottlenose dolphins were spotted along the Purbeck coast the same weekend and were much more familiar. We believe these are members of the small South West England pod that ranges from Cornwall to Dorset. Several people have spotted juveniles in the group.
Several divers have been treated to rare sightings of squid this year and some fabulous footage was recorded of them in Chesil Cove where they had gathered to lay eggs. At Kimmeridge a large number of squid egg-clusters continue to be found washed up on the beach. Normally these would be anchored to the seabed where they develop and hatch after being laid by a number of different females. Stranded on the beach out of water they are doomed to shrivel and die. However the quick-thinking staff and volunteers at our Fine Foundation Marine Centre at Kimmeridge have rescued some of the stranded eggs. One cluster has already hatched out producing hundreds of tiny baby squid. Measuring only 2mm long they were immediately released back to the sea. The unusual number of sightings of both adult squid and their eggs may mean that this has been an exceptional year for them.
Sap-sucking sea slug
At Kimmeridge there have been several sightings of Elysia viridis, a green sea slug. They are a fairly common sea slug but are so well camouflaged that they are not often seen. Colour can vary from bright green to red, with vivid blue spots scattered over the body, depending on the type of seaweed they are feeding on. Unusually, these animals ingest the alga’s chloroplasts intact and this is what gives them their varying colours. Again, the number of sightings this year leads us to believe this has been a good year for them.