To some they are beautiful, colourful and mysterious creatures, to others they are terrifying threats that creep around the ocean. We're talking about jellyfish on The Ray D'Arcy Show, with Kathryn Thomas filling in for Ray while he's on his holidays (hopefully avoiding any stings).

Aine Lisa Shannon, a marine biologist and science communicator, joined Kathryn on RTÉ Radio 1 to tell us more about these sea jellies.

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While acknowledging that people generally dislike the alien looking creatures, Aine insists that, beneath their stinging cells, jellyfish are as beautiful as they are fascinating.

"They're older than dinosaurs," she says, "they're actually seven hundred million years old. That's astonishing. There's a reason they've been around for this long."

Growing up in Ennis, Aine says she would spend her summers exploring rock pools in Lahinch and ended up moving to Galway to study marine science at NUIG before getting her masters at University College Cork.

"I was just totally determined to do it. I mean, Ireland, we're an island surrounded by seawater. There's a wealth of opportunities to explore, that's why I want to promote Irish marine life and the environment that surrounds it."

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During the COVID-19 pandemic, sea swimming has become increasingly popular as a social outdoor activity for those lucky enough to live along the coast.

As well as stirring up some drama about dry robes and realising just how much bacteria can leak into Dublin waters, swimmers have faced a plague of jellyfish this summer. But Aine is determined to set the record straight.

"They're not as bad as we think," she insists. "Actually, only two per cent of jellyfish worldwide can give us fatal stings. It's very low."

According to Aine, there are over 2,000 species of jellyfish in the world and they can be found in the deep seas and all over our oceans. Although she says they're "tricky" to pin down, she says there about six species of 'true jellyfish' that tend to live in Ireland.

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First up is the Moon jellyfish, a translucent form with four purple rings that has no sting but cause a tingling sensation. "I wouldn't be swimming into them now," adds Aine. "At the end of the day, they're a wild animal and we have to respect wild animals."

Next up is the Compass jellyfish. Easily spotted thanks to their brown markings, these guys are considered to pack the punch of a nettle sting.

The Barrel jellyfish is big and blubbery and the bell can weight "up to 30kg". They don't sting but they can create an allergic reaction.

The Blue jellyfish is noticeable thanks to its beautiful blue hues and its sting has been likened to that of a wasp.

The big bad to look out for in Ireland is the Lion's Mane jellyfish. The biggest jellyfish in the world, the bell alone can be 3 metres in diameter and the maximum length of the tentacles has been recorded at a whopping 36 metres in length (although the average length is 3 metres).

Portuguese Man o' War is another dangerous creature. Not classed as a 'true jellyfish', Aine says this would be classed as a siphonophore - a colony of specialized animals called zooids that work together as one.

"Portugese Man o' War are quite rare in our waters," she explains. "They usually come in around August when our waters are at their warmest and if there's been a south westerly wind coming up to Ireland."

So, what can you do if you do get stung by one of these sea jellies?

"Don't pee on a jellyfish sting," laughs Aine referencing the famous Friends episode where Monica gets stung at the beach. "That will actually just aggravate it because there's actually fresh water in urine which will make the sting worse."

Instead, she suggests washing the sting out with sea water as it is a natural antiseptic. Next, use some distilled vinegar as it's a mild acid that will neutralise the stings (not everyone agrees with this step but Aine stands by it). Finally, place the stung area in hot water - about 45° Celsius - and wait for the pain to subside.

NB: If in doubt, always seek medical attention. For more information, visit HSE.ie.

To find out more about these weird and wonderful creatures, listen back to the full interview here.