Jellyfish species sighted for first time in Iraq
Life continues to return to Iraq’s historic marshlands – and in some cases, species that have never been recorded before in the country. In July, a species of jellyfish Catostylus perezi was discovered at the Main Outfall Drain (MOD) channel and in southern part of Hammar Marshes of southern Iraq. This is the first Iraqi record for this species.
The discovery came to the attention of Nature Iraq (BirdLife in Iraq) when they were informed by a fisherman that he saw a jellyfish in the MOD channel. Nature Iraq then began a field survey, monitoring the MOD and Southern side of East Hammar and West Hammar Marshes searching for the jellyfish and in August recovered a specimen for relevant scientific studies.
After few months’ collaboration with a jellyfish expert from Brazil to develop this finding, it seems that the jellyfish species is a Scyphomedusae and identified as Catostylus perezi, which belongs to the Family Catostylidae and to Order Rhizostomeae. This would be the first record of Catostylus perezi for Iraq.
Of note, both the East Hammar Marshes and West Hammar Marshes are connected to the MOD canal from the south side and then to the port of Khor Al-Zubair and then to the Arabian Gulf. These parts of marshes are influenced by the tidal effect of the sea through the connection and this leads to the upward movement of such species to the marshes. The occurrence of this species is an evidence of the change in the water salinity of the area.
The distribution of this species indicates that it occurs in the southern coast of the Peninsula and the Gulf as it was recorded in the Iranian coast in 1956 near Kharj and in Pakistan.
The Iraqi Marshlands, also known as the Al-Ahwar Marshlands is a group of water surfaces, which cover the low lands situated in the south of the Iraqi plain. As part of Iraq’s efforts since 2003 to put Al-Ahwar on the World Heritage List, UNESCO has approved the inscription of the marshes and to add it to the list on July 2016.
With UNESCO's “world heritage site” title, the marshlands are now secured from further damage and it will help the government in establishing plans to protect and enhance the site.
“The Iraqi marshlands – are unique, as one of the world’s largest inland delta systems, in an extremely hot and arid environment,” UNESCO said. They describes the site as a “refuge of biodiversity and the relict landscape of the Mesopotamian Cities.”
The marshlands are home to many bird species and are a spawning ground for fish of the Gulf.