Mystery behind thousands of washed up jellyfish explained

WRIGHTSVILLE BEACH, NC (WECT) – They don't belong in the sand, but that hasn't stopped thousands of jellyfish from washing up on the shores of Wrightsville Beach recently. Many residents have taken notice and are wondering what's behind the strange sight.

The jellyfish, known as moon jellies, are 98 percent water, so if they end up on the shore, they tend to dry out and die quickly.

According to Matt Babineau of the North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher, they're not strong swimmers and they make their home off Carolina coasts in early fall.

He says it appears that the jellies were the victims of a combination of strong currents and strong winds. Hence, the jellyfish don't have the strength to fight against all those factors.

The full moon making for a higher tide hasn't helped matters, pushing many of the jellyfish to shore.

Babineau says this happens from time to time and it's not unusual – rather, it's part of the circle of life.

"They're at the mercy of the winds and tides, so wherever the water is taking them, that's where they're going to go," he said. "If it washes them up on the beach, that's the way life goes."

Babineau advises that it's best not to touch jellyfish people come across on shore, even though the moon jellyfish are completely harmless. If anything, he says they let off a mild sting.

A general rule of thumb for jellyfish is the longer their tentacles, the more potent the sting.

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