WEST Dorset is preparing for an invasion of one of the most bizarre sea creatures – giant Barrel Jellyfish.
Specimens have been found washed up along the county’s coastline, which experts say is due to warm sea temperatures.
And there could be more to come.
Richard Harrington, from the Marine Conservation Society, said: “This predicted hot weather to come could mean even more jellyfish are likely to wash up or be in the seas.”
In 2009 West Bay swimming beach was closed off by coastguards after a swarm of Portuguese Man O’War was spotted.
More than 100 were picked up along the coastline and dozens more were seen in the sea by bathers, prompting safety fears.
The warning comes after a metre-wide Barrel Jellyfish washed up on a beach at Portland.
More jellyfish have been discovered by holidaymakers at Church Cliff Beach.
The species does not sting but members of the public are advised not to touch the creatures.
Mr Harrington added: “Although this species is harmless their numbers are likely to grow fairly quickly as sea temperatures rise.
“We are very keen to hear from people that find any washed up anywhere around the country.
“This is an Atlantic species and is sometimes found washed up but we still advise the public not to touch them”.
Sally Welbourn, from the Dorset Wildlife Trust, said: “This is an unusual sighting in Dorset for so early in the year.
“We’re putting the increased sightings of jellyfish down to warm sea temperatures which have increased the number of plankton growing for this time of year. Jellyfish feed on plankton, so the conditions are ideal for them to be feeding along the Dorset coast earlier in the year than usual.”
The trust is advising members of the public not to touch any jellyfish they find washed up and to report it to them to identify and record.
The trust’s Welly Zone project encourages members of the public to record what they find along the beaches and shallow shorelines in Dorset, including jellyfish.
The Marine Conservation Society is also keen to hear from anyone who finds jellyfish washed up.