Creature Feature: Lion’s Mane Jelly

lions mane

Today we are going to focus on a real doozy of a jelly:  The Lion’s Mane Jelly, Cyanea capillata.  It is the longest jelly in the world, reaching up to 100ft long (120ft is the longest ever recorded) and the bell can be 6-7 feet in diameter. This colossus of a species is still a planktonic (remember: planktonic = drifting) organism. The Lion’s Mane Jelly has tan, yellow, red, brown tentacles resembling a lion’s mane, hence the regal name.

These large creatures can be found in cold waters of the Arctic, Northern Atlantic and Northern Pacific. The life cycle of this massive life form begins when the eggs of the females are fertilized. The eggs reside within the female jelly’s tentacles where they grow into larva, which is their active immature stage.  The next stage is the polyp stage. As a polyp they are able reproduce asexually creating ephyraes which grow to the medusa stage. Thus emerge the magnificent Lion’s Mane Jellies that we know and love.

As an adult, the Lion’s Mane Jelly’s bell will pulsate and it drifts with the current. Like most cnidarians (a category of animals that consists of jellies, anemones, corals, and hydroids) these jellies use thousands of stinging nematocysts to paralyze their prey. Lion’s Mane Jellies like to feed on small fish, zooplankton, small shrimp and other jellies.  When it comes to humans, being stung by the Lion’s Mane Jelly can be painful but fatality is not very likely.

Given their size, you might not expect the LMJ to be prey to much of anything.  However, birds, fish, and sea turtles find these jellies to be a delicious treat.  No creature can escape the food web!!

Come back next week for another squishy post!

Check out this grape jelly recipe!


Edited by: K.C. O’Shea

Photography: Hayley Usedom


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