Rare jellyfish in Kentucky is not considered to be an invasive species

Anita Durairaj

Freshwater jellyfish (Craspedacusta sowerbyi) are found in Kentucky's lakes and ponds. However, they are quite rare and are only found in abundance for a short period of time.

In 2020, the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources reported that the jellyfish were present in Kentucky in late summer and early autumn. The jellyfish were spotted in specific locations including Erlanger, Owensboro, and Utica.

Freshwater jellyfish have actually been documented in 44 U.S. states and the District of Columbia. They were first documented in Kentucky in 1916 in a creek near Frankfort.

Freshwater jellyfish are different from marine jellyfish. Unlike marine jellyfish, they are harmless to humans. The jellyfish do have stingers but these mainly paralyze small fish and other smaller macroinvertebrates.

The jellyfish are not native to North America. Their origin is the Yangtze River Valley in China. It is believed that the jellyfish were introduced into the U.S. when they were transported with ornamental aquatic plants from China.

The United States Geological Survey surveys and documents the current status of freshwater jellyfish in Kentucky and other states. They have classified the jellyfish as a "non-indigenous aquatic species."

It is interesting to note that the jellyfish is not considered to be invasive but rather an exotic species despite its origin in China. The main reason for this is that there are no known ecological roles for the jellyfish. An invasive species may harm the environment but these jellyfish don't seem to impact the environment in any noticeable way.

So far in Kentucky, the occurrence of freshwater jellyfish remains sporadic with periods of high abundance which may be followed by successive years where they are absent.

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