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Jellyfishlike Creature Invasion Leaves Outer Banks Beachgoers Mystified

Vacationers at the Outer Banks in North Carolina, a summer hot spot, have been sharing beach real estate with mystifying blue jellyfishlike creatures this season.

Porpita porpita, or blue buttons, have reportedly been washing up on Outer Banks beaches, leaving some puzzled. Though not rare to the area, appearances by the creatures can be scarce.

"They aren't seen too often because they are normally found in the open ocean. A couple times a year, we tend to see them get washed up on shore due to storms or strong winds," Director of Husbandry and Operations at the North Carolina Aquarium on Roanoke Island Brian Dorn said.

Not technically a type of jellyfish, the vibrant creatures pose no threat to humans. The tentaclelike hydroids extending out of the creature's one-inch body do sting, but the prick is so slight that people wouldn't even notice, Dorn said.

The blue buttons are typically found in the warm waters of the Gulf Stream but will end up on beaches due to winds from offshore storms, Dr. Craig Harms, professor of Aquatic Wildlife and Zoologic Medicine at North Carolina State University, said.

While there haven't been many big storms off the coast, areas of low pressure offshore have sent swells capable of dragging them to shore, AccuWeather Meteorologist Maggie Samuhel said.

Warm water close to the shore will also bring the creatures to shorelines. Water temperatures in the area have been significantly higher than average in the last month, about 3 to 4 degrees Fahrenheit above normal.