AMELIA ISLAND, Fla. – A warning to watch your feet comes after numerous blue button sightings at area beaches.
These jellyfish-like creatures have been washing up all over the beach from Fernandina Beach to St. Augustine Beach. Their sting is not powerful, but it could cause skin irritation.
The blue button jelly (porpita porpita) is not a jellyfish or sea jelly. It is a hydroid, which is an animal in the class Hydrozoa.
University of North Florida biology associate professor Kelly Smith explained why the critters named for their resemblance to "blue buttons" have been popping up on shores lately.
"You have the hydroid around this central disk that is actually keratinized and forms a flout and that keeps these guys up at the surface. So they just kind of drift around with the waters, so if there's a prevailing wind they are going to be blown onto shore," said Smith.
Blue buttons are in the same family of creatures as the man o’ war, and they are usually found in the open ocean far from shore.
They’ve been blown toward the beaches by the strong east winds we’ve had since the weekend. This may be why you see purple flags flying at the beach.
Smith said if you spot one of the lifeless blue buttons on the beach, it's likely already dead and you should leave it alone.
Biologists said they've seen an increase in these jelly-like organisms in recent years, but it remains to seen what the long-term impacts maybe other marine animals and our beaches.
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HAVE YOU SEEN A ‘BLUE BUTTON’ JELLYFISH? | WJXT4 Jonathan Stacey is on the looking out for the sea critter that’s been popping up on Northeast Florida beaches. https://bit.ly/ECgPU0Posted by WJXT4 The Local Station / News4JAX on Thursday, September 6, 2018