One of the world’s leading jellyfish venom experts, Angel Yanagihara from the University of Hawaii, spent the weekend with University College Cork marine biologist Tom Doyle, collecting venom capsules and tentacles from lion’s mane jellyfish on the Louth, Meath, and Dublin coasts.
Prof Yanagihara, who in 2011 developed an antidote for the potentially lethal box jellyfish sting, will now work with Dr Doyle on the study and characterisation of the lion’s mane venom.
“We’re at the very early stages of this work, but the ultimate aim is to develop an antidote for the venom, and devise new medical protocols for the treatment of the sting,” said Dr Doyle.
Prof Yanagihara spent 16 years working on the box jellyfish ant idote.
However, it is hoped that her ground-breaking work on that project will help speed up research on the lion’s mane project.
Dr Doyle, who is based at UCC’s Coastal and Marine Research Centre, is working on the antidote project with the Science Foundation Ireland-funded MaREI centre — the Marine Renewable Energy Ireland project.
The project is also working with the aqua-culture industry on jellyfish defence systems to protect fish farms, and on an antidote to reduce the high rate of fish-farm mortalities caused by jellyfish stings.
Farmed fich can be stung inadvertently as jellyfish drift through fish-farm cages.
“This is not just an Irish problem,” said Dr Doyle.
“It affects the aqua-culture industry worldwide.”
The researchers have developed a new bubble curtain system, which is located about 20m below the surface of the water, and which uses compressed air to force a curtain of bubbles up and around a fish-farm cage to divert jellyfish away or over the cage.
The system will undergo its first major field tests this week.
Warnings have been issued in recent weeks following several sightings of potentially dangerous jellyfish in Irish waters.
The lion’s mane jellyfish is the most dangerous.
The creature, which can reach 40cm in diameter and have up to 1,000 5m-long tentacles drifting behind it, has a serious sting which could require hospital treatment.
There have been several reported sightings of Portuguese man o’war jellyfish, but there are no documented fatalities as a result of its sting in Irish waters.
There have also been reported sightings off the west coast in recent days of the so-called mauve stinger, which has a reputation as a ferocious stinger.
The box jellyfish has never been recorded in Irish waters.