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Phyllorhiza punctata

THE CRIMES: Threatens local fish populations and other commercially important species such as shrimp, menhaden, anchovies, and crabs.

DESCRIPTION: Has a mushroom-shaped bell with whitish spots. Can range from creamy white to bluish brown. Has eight short arms packed with stinging cells and from the arms hang frilly, transparent appendages. Size varies from 6 to 8 inches in diameter but some can reach nearly two feet across!

The Interrogation
Where are you from?
I came from the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Australia.
How did you get here?
I was introduced into the Atlantic Basin about 50 years ago through the Panama Canal. As a polyp, I hitched a ride on the hull of a ship and jumped off when the ship entered the canal.
Where are you a problem?
I am invasive in many places such as Hawaii, the Caribbean Sea and southern California. However, I do most of my dirty work in the Gulf of Mexico from Mobile Bay, Alabama to Lake Borgne in Louisiana.
What’s your problem?
In the past few years, my populations have exploded in the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico. The Gulf is a great place to breed and I have no natural predators here. I feed on plankton. Sometimes so many of my friends come to feed with me that we can alter native food webs because we feed so fast. There are so many of us that we can also clog up fishermen's nets. I love to eat fish in the larval stage. I compete with native species of fish and shellfish for food. I digest my stomach contents every two hours so I can clean the water of thousands of tiny species of plankton and fish eggs every day. My long-term ecological effects are still unknown
How can we control you?
It is going to be tough to get rid of me because you don't know much about me yet. Scientists are trying to develop removal strategies for me in my poly stage, but the scientists know less about my polyp stage than any other. There will be a lot of research about me and about how to get rid of me in the next few years.
Reward: The satisfaction that you are protecting and preserving Gulf waters.