Whether they cling, sting, or leave swimmers alone, jellyfish at the Jersey Shore tend to come in milky-white or beige hues, maybe with a hint of red or purple.
So "jellyspotters" are buzzing about an eye-catching new arrival: a vivid blue creature commonly called the blue button jellyfish. Multiple sightings were reported in late September on a Facebook page called New Jersey Jellyspotters.
"They're gorgeous," said Egg Harbor Township resident Holly Horner, a wildlife photographer who spotted two of the blue visitors on Brigantine Beach on Sept. 25. "The color is just amazing."
These blue button creatures likely washed up on Jersey beaches as the result of currents fueled by Hurricane Florence, said Paul Bologna, director of Montclair State University's marine biology and coastal sciences program.
They are not true jellyfish but actually colonies of polyps, somewhat like a Portuguese man-o-war, he said. Bologna has not yet examined the new arrivals, but he is hoping one of the beachgoers sends him a specimen for DNA analysis.
"I have never seen them in New Jersey," Bologna said. "I've seen them in Florida. They are tropical in nature."
With support from the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, Bologna and his colleagues have analyzed the DNA of several other nonnative jellies in recent years, in part to pinpoint their origin and analyze their impact on the environment.
Among them are dime-sized clinging jellies, which deliver a sting nasty enough to send someone to the hospital. These pests were found in Barnegat Bay this year for the first time, and were spotted in 2016 in the Shrewsbury, Metedeconk, and Manasquan Rivers in North Jersey.
The blue button creatures have a much milder sting, which at most can irritate the skin.
Suzanne Schenker of New Hope told NJ.com she found four specimens in Beach Haven on Sept. 25.
"They were so blue they almost looked unreal," she said.