If your excuse for not going to the beach is that a shark like the one in Spielberg’s film may appear, you can rest assured that you won’t see any shark indiscriminately attacking swimmers or people fleeing from the frightened water as in a famous advertisement from the 80s.
That’s not to say that bathing in the sea is as safe as soaking in the urbanization pool. If we combine recklessness with bad luck, there can always be some animal – more discreet than a shark – that will give us a scare off the Spanish coast.
The queen of water bites is an invertebrate with a gelatinous appearance and a bell-shaped body. Civil Protection warns that there are a dozen species of jellyfish frequent on the Spanish coasts, but their danger is very different, as some are harmless and others have a poison that can cause us problems.
In general, a jellyfish sting is not usually serious unless there is an allergic reaction, but in any case the pain, itching and tingling that comes with it will give us a hard time.
And be careful when treating the wound, which can aggravate the problem: it must be cleaned with salt water, never with fresh water and much less with urine -a popular home remedy-, as you could aggravate the pain. Afterwards, an ointment with antihistamines and corticoids will make us look like new in a few days.
These animals are dragged by the water currents and for that reason from time to time they arrive floating until the coast, but their small invasion does not usually last long. However, their numbers are increasing dramatically worldwide because of climate change and the absence of predators.
In fact, FAO says that predators should be us, because jellyfish can be part of our diet, although of the jellyfish that reach our coasts only the species Cotylorhiza tuberculata is edible.
The Portuguese caravel
The Portuguese caravel (Physalia physalis) is a synophorus, although it is sometimes considered just another jellyfish and is even known as a “false jellyfish”. In addition to its violet colour, at first glance the difference is that, instead of a bell, it looks like a floating bag with a gas inside that helps it move.
Underneath it has filaments with urticating cells that can inject a poison much more potent than that of jellyfish.
The bad news is that this species, as Atlantic as its name, has lately been given a holiday in the Mediterranean, so it seems that we can find it almost anywhere and take something more than a displeasure. Just ask the Telecinco reporter Jano Mecha, who days ago was one of its victims.
The Portuguese caravel is easily swept away by the currents, but scientists believe that it is normal for it to disappear as the summer progresses.
They have a very curious and recognizable shape, they are flat animals with a long tail and a stinger prepared to inoculate poison.
They are usually in sandy areas, stuck to the bottom, so bites occur because we do not see them and step on them. If it itches, we are going to suffer a great swelling that can be accompanied by nausea, vomiting and cramps.
The torpedo fish
So similar in appearance to stingrays that it is also known as electric stingray and calambrose stingray, the torpedo fish or scrapie, can give discharges of up to 220 volts and 1 ampere. Although not lethal, it is very painful. Up to 70 centimetres long, its presence is common on the Andalusian coast, although it prefers muddy bottoms.
There are many species of sea urchins around the world and many are poisonous, but this is not the case of the Mediterranean sea urchin. What happens is that this curious animal is covered with spikes, so if we touch it, we are going to prick it and the result is not very pleasant.
Sea spiders are the fish of a family that includes the species Tranchinus draco or scorpion fish, the Tranchinus vipera or snake fish and some others of various common names. They have venomous glands and spines in the fins that are the ones that transmit the venom.
They are usually among the rocks and cliffs and sometimes half buried in the sand, so that many times the stings are produced by a stomp. The pain is severe and, in this case, very hot water is recommended to destroy the toxin.
They look like algae or some kind of vegetable and, in fact, there are genetic studies that consider them almost a mixture of animal and plant, but the fact is that the anemones are invertebrate predators that wait on the seabed for a prey – small fish – to pass by and throw themselves at it.
Also called actinias, its venom is not very harmful to humans, but it can leave a kind of burning in the skin that lasts for months. Among them are sea tomatoes, known for their shape and color.
The stone fish
It should not be on this list, because the stone fish or Synanceia horrida belongs to the Indian and Pacific Oceans, but has already been detected in the Mediterranean Sea.
It is difficult to recognize, because it looks like a rock, as its name suggests, and sometimes survives for hours in the sand, without water. The spines of the fins inject a very strong poison, so much so that it can be deadly if not treated in time.
They receive various denominations, such as scorpionfish, redfish and scorpionfish (Scorpaena scrofa), and can be found in the Cantabrian and Mediterranean. It lives in rocky areas and, if it feels in danger, it puts itself in a defensive position showing its poisonous thorns.
It is common for some divers to touch it with their hands and so produce the painful contact which, however, remains a mild inflammation. However, the spines may remain embedded and remain poisonous even though the fish has died.
Unlike the vast majority of animals on this list, the moray eel is a fish that does not inoculate poison – at least not those of the Spanish coasts – but does bite.
Perhaps it causes more fear because of its appearance as a great snake and in the Mediterranean it has a reputation for being aggressive, but in reality it only attacks when it is harassed, something very similar to what happens with conger eel, with which it bears a great resemblance.