Small, gelatinous blobs along beaches are harmless salps, not sea lice

Public domain image.

Public domain image.

The little gelatinous, translucent blobs now making their annual appearance at ocean beaches are known as salps, and they’re harmless, an expert says.

Beachgoers along the Jersey Shore have reported seeing the seemingly endless salps, marine invertebrates, known as tunicates, that you might think are jellyfish, but they’re not, according to Dominick Solazzo, a coastal ecologist.

And they’re also not sea lice, a term that has been used to describe the larvae of tiny jellyfish that have been reported as stinging and causing rashes on beachgoers in Ocean City, Maryland recently. But now there’s a dispute of what was the cause.

Here at the Jersey Shore, the salps have made their annual appearance as nutrients increase, floating near the shoreline and collecting and glistening on the wet sand — causing some to confuse them with sea lice.

Solazzo says they’re filter feeders that eat phytoplankton and move by pumping water through their bodies, which is a form of jet propulsion.

“Their slimness and appearance might be off-putting, but they’re nothing to worry about,” he says.

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