What are the strange transparent ‘jelly bean’ creatures invading Spanish beaches?

Thousands of weird looking gelatinous see-through creatures have been washing up on the beaches on Andalusia.

What are the strange transparent 'jelly bean' creatures invading Spanish beaches?
The clean up has already begun. Photo:

They might be odd, but they're completely harmless. 

They look a bit like plastic, but these creatures are barrel-shaped planktonic tunicate, known as salps.

Clean up teams have already started to remove them from the shores, but salps present no threat to humans, except for creeping us out!.

These gelatinous blobs, known as las salpas in Spanish and also ‘zapaticos’ , kind of look like jellyfish but without tentacles, but in fact, salps are more closely related to humans than they are jellyfish. 


They can reach up 30 centimetres long, but are more commonly washed up the size of a fingernail, they have a primitive backbone, which jellyfish lack.

They are not to be confused with 'sea lice', a term that has been used to describe the larvae of tiny jellyfish that can sting and cause rashes.

Interestingly, it has been suggested that salp could be a secret weapon against climate change, because the algae that they eat uses carbon dioxide from the atmosphere to grow, meaning the salps end up consuming all that carbon.

This said, it is unlikely that salps will be able to keep up with the increased carbon in the atmosphere.

READ ALSO: Strange blue sea creatures wash up on Costa Blanca beaches

Thousands of these extraordinary creatures can currently be found on the Costa Tropical, the stretch of beaches between Granda province and Málaga, but they are not expected to stick around for long.

Changes in wind direction and sea currents tend to push salp towards the beaches, although salps move by contracting and pumping water through their transparent bodies. 

By Alice Huseyinoglu

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.


Police operation targets illegal water tapping in Spain

More than 130 people were arrested or placed under investigation for illegal water tapping last year, Spain’s Guardia Civil police said on Wednesday following a huge operation.

Police said most of their operations took place “in fragile and vulnerable areas such as the Doñana natural park”
Police said most of their operations took place “in fragile and vulnerable areas such as the Doñana natural park” in Andalusia. Photo: CRISTINA QUICLER / AFP

During the year-long operation, “133 people were arrested or investigated for extracting water through more than 1,533 illegal infrastructure devices”, the police’s environmental unit said in a statement.

A similar operation in 2019 had targeted 107 people.

Spain is one of the European countries most at risk from the impact of drought caused by global warming, scientists say.

Water usage issues are often at the heart of heated political debates in Spain where intensive agriculture plays an important role in the economy.

Police said most of their operations took place “in fragile and vulnerable areas such as the Doñana natural park” in the southern Andalusia region, one of Europe’s largest wetlands and a Unesco World Heritage bird sanctuary.

They were also operating in “in the basins of Spain’s main rivers”.

In Doñana, police targeted 14 people and 12 companies for the illegal tapping of water for irrigation, a police spokesman said.

Ecologists regularly raise the alarm about the drying up of marshes and lagoons in the area, pointing the finger at nearby plantations, notably growing strawberries, which are irrigated by illegally-dug wells.

“The overexploitation of certain aquifers for many reasons, mainly economic, constitutes a serious threat to our environment,” the Guardia Civil said.

The European Court of Justice rapped Spain over the knuckles in June for its inaction in the face of illegal water extraction in Donana which covers more than 100,000 hectares (250,000 acres) and is home to more than 4,000 species, including the critically endangered Iberian lynx.

According to the government’s last official estimate, which dates back to 2006, there were more than half a million illegal wells in use.

But in a 2018 study, Greenpeace estimated there were twice as many, calculating that the quantity of stolen water was equivalent to that used by 118 million people — two-and-a-half times the population of Spain.

Spanish NGO SEO/Birdlife also on Wednesday raised the alarm about the “worrying” state of Spain’s wetlands.