They're not fish eggs, either...

And they’re not sea lice, jellyfish, or even jellyfish eggs either. Those little, clear, barrel-shaped, and seemingly endless blobs currently swarming the Jersey Shore are salps, and they are nothing to worry about. Unless, of course, you dread the end of summer since salps typically appear in our area in late August.

Aside from the “ewww” factor, they pose no risk to swimmers. They cannot sting you, bite you, or even give you a rash. They are there because their favorite food, phytoplankton (microscopic, floating plants) is plentiful. And when there’s lots of food for them, it's “yum, yum, eat ‘em up” time.

They swarm, grow quickly, and can even clone themselves. In this manner, a salp colony can explode in no time to hundreds of millions of individuals joined together in chains up to 50 feet long. When the food runs out, most die off and the salps will return to a more normal, sustainable numbers.

While salps might ruin your dip in the ocean, they are very helpful creatures. They are eaten by fish, sea turtles, birds, seals, and shellfish. They also help contain some greenhouse gases. Salps eat plants which take up atmospheric carbon dioxide through photosynthesis.

Salp poop, which is mostly carbon dioxide, is excreted in coated, fecal pellets that sink rapidly to the bottom of the ocean where it is stored instead of being released into the atmosphere. Salps have been successful residents of the planet for millions of years—apparently, they plan on keeping it that way.

Thank you so much to NJ Sea Grant for always telling us the TRUTH about what's going on in our ocean.

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