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At times during Nyad's swim, the jellyfish clustered in throngs so thick, the stings were almost constant.
Jellyfish contain what Yanagihara describes as spring-loaded injection systems. When triggered, the tube and needle explosively shoot out, injecting venom into prey or a potential predator.
In the 34 years since Nyad first swam from Cuba to Key West in 1978, the ocean has changed, she said. "The story of how jellyfish have proliferated in the world's oceans today - it's going to be the biggest story of the oceans," she told the NewsHour on Tuesday.

"Without a doubt, the ocean's warmer now," Finnerty said. "The ocean's more acidic than it was then. Depending on where you were, there could be more contaminants in the ocean and more algal blooms."

And in warmer conditions, jellyfish thrive. As the ocean water has warmed, the organisms have been found farther north in the Atlantic than ever before. In Japan, fisherman have reported hauling up nets full of jellyfish. One giant jellyfish sunk a 10-ton fishing boat.

Studies have shown that overfishing, warmer temperatures and other human-caused variables "have stacked up in favor of the jellyfish," Yanagihara said, and some think the oceans are reverting back to a state resembles the primordial sea that existed even before invertebrates were on the planet, she said.

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