Letter: It don't mean a thing if it ain't got that sting

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Sir: Ed Needham's excellent article on stinging jellyfish ('Beware the underwater Terminator,' 6 July) was misleading in one small but important aspect. The venomous dull orange Lion's Mane jellyfish, which he implied prefers deep and Arctic waters, is actually common along most British coasts.

It occurs along eastern England, all round Scotland, especially in the sea-

lochs, in northern and much of western Ireland, and along the Welsh and Irish coasts of the Irish Sea. The sting differs in effect between people, but great surface pain and muscular cramp are common. Many cases are on record of severe palpitation and interference with ventilation. A weak swimmer badly stung could drown.

Around the world, the severity of the sting varies greatly between species. Partly in consequence, the medical treatment given ideally depends on accurate identification of the species. At the Natural History Museum we are perhaps not so altruistic as the 19th-century scientist Karl Mobius, who recklessly tested jellyfish stings on his tongue. But over the next few years, aided by an initial grant from the Wellcome Trust, we shall be joining forces with medical and zoological specialists around the world to understand and document the species. We shall eventually produce a well-illustrated guide that enables rapid identification of the species by medical staff so that correct treatment can be selected.

Yours faithfully,


Head of Cnidaria Research


The Natural History Museum

London, SW7

6 July