Article by Doug Collicutt (Check updates! See below.)
In Whiteshell Provincial Park?!
Freshwater jellyfish found in Manitoba for the 1st time?
The things you see lounging around on a tube in a secluded bay! On August 22, 2010 Daniel Collicutt, son of NatureNorth biologist, Doug Collicutt, spotted several odd "blobs" floating around in the water of a small bay at the northwest corner of Star Lake in Manitoba's Whiteshell Provincial Park. He scooped a couple of them into the lid of our boat safety kit (finally, a use for that orange plastic bailer!) and we all had a look. Not wanting to believe my eyes at first, it soon became obvious that there were no other choices, they were jellyfish! Small, only the size of a penny or larger ones, a nickel, they were definitely jellyfish. I was flabbergasted.
But even at the cottage the internet is not far away, just slow - dial-up speed. So, as soon as we got back to the cottage we searched on "freshwater jellyfish" and, sure enough, there they were, all sorts of articles on Craspedacusta sowerbyi, the freshwater jellyfish. Our initial enthusiasm and surprise were tempered a little bit by the realization that this was a well known species, just seemingly not known from Manitoba. (We had hoped for "new to science!" Daniel was already working on a latin name: variations on Jellius danielicus and so on.)
Jellyfish Update 2016: No sign of jellyfish in Star Lake this year. I've been watching over the last week and none have been spotted to Aug. 28.
Jellyfish Update 2015: Saw one (1) jellyfish by a dock near the south end of Star Lake on Aug. 8. Quite early for a first sighting Aug. 18 - Lots of jellyfish in the north end bay of Star Lake where they were first sighted. Aug. 20 - Counted more than a dozen off our dock in the south end of the lake. Looks like a good jellyfish year!
Jellyfish Update 2014: None were seen or reported in 2014.
Jellyfish Update 2013: No sign of jellies yet this year. A quick survey on August 25 turned up no jellyfish.
Jellyfish Update 2012: A report in the September 6, Winnipeg Free Press says the jellies are back in Star Lake! They were spotted by cottager Larry Santa on the Monday of the Labour Day long weekend, presumably out in the same bay in the NW corner of the lake (that's where Larry usually hangs out in his pontoon boat). That's fairly late in the year for a first sighting of jellies, wonder how long they'll hang around?
Let us know if you see them in your lake: Email NatureNorth. We'll post updates as we get them!
Jellyfish Update 2011: No sign of the jellies in Star Lake this summer! And we've had no other reports of them in other Manitoba lakes in 2011.
Caddy Lake has jellies! We've had a report of large numbers of jellyfish being spotted in Caddy Lake, Whiteshell Provincial Park, on the weekend of September 10-11, 2011. Caddy Lake is downstream from Star Lake, via West Hawk Lake. Wonder if they're in any other Whiteshell Lakes?
Here's how the observations went in 2010:
Sept. 19, 2010
Sept. 8, 2010 - Correction!
Sept. 6, 2010
Sept. 1, 2010
Aug. 31, 2010
Aug. 30, 2010
The main "flowering" of jellyfish in the NW corner of Star Lake may be over for now. There were only few decrepit looking ones around on the 29th. But they're started showing up at the south end of the lake by the main beach now! Doubt they would have swum the 2 km from the other side of the lake, so perhaps another colony is releasing medusae (jellyfish) now. We'll keep you posted.
Here's some more images: Click for Jellyfish photos.
The freshwater jellyfish, we learned, is actually an invasive alien species that has been spreading around the globe after being accidentally exported from China. The first records of it in North America are from the 1880's. It's been found in Ontario, BC, Quebec, Minnesota (all around us!), it just may not have been documented here in Manitoba. We're still waiting on confirmation that our sightings are Manitoba's first. If it turns out the be the case, Daniel will have some interesting bragging rites!
Interestingly, since the 22nd the numbers of jellyfish in this bay of Star Lake has increased dramatically. On the evening of the 26th we were fishing and saw several dozen jellies pulsing around near the surface. On the morning of the 27th of August, we went out to take some video and pictures in the bay and found the site swimming with jellies! There were many hundreds of them! It looks like we had just happened upon the start of the emergence last Sunday. How many more will there be? We'll keep track. And we'll research the biology of these cool critters more and add in some more stuff to this article. But we just had to start spreading the word that "there's jellyfish out there!" And we've got the images and video to prove it!
But please don't panic, there's no evidence that these little guys are harmful to people in any way (we had them in our hands to no effect), and they don't seem to be harmful to aquatic ecosystems either. Small mouthed bass aren't native to Manitoba, either, and they are considered a boon to our sport fisheries. Maybe "jellyfishing" will catch on, too?
If you want to learn more about these fascinating creatures, here's a great web site from a professor of biology, Dr. Terry Peard, in Pennsylvania:
Dr. Peard's been tracking the spread of this species and encouraging people to report sightings through his web site. (Another great example of Citizen Science!)
And now for some cool video! Check this out, click the "play" button below! And remember, you can watch this video in high definition!
If you find jellyfish in your lake, pond or stream please let us know! We'll start keeping track of them in Manitoba and pass the info along to Manitoba Conservation and Dr. Peard. Drop us a line at: Email NatureNorth.