American Oceans

What are the Different Types of Jellyfish

If you have ever watched various types of jellyfish in the ocean, you probably noticed how graceful and colorful they are.

box types of jellyfish in an aquarium

What you may not know is that some of these beautiful creatures can also be quite dangerous. 

There are more than 2,000 different types of species of jellyfish that have been found in the ocean so far. They are all unique and have their purpose.

Continue reading to learn more about some of the different kinds of jellyfish that you may see in the ocean.

Box Jellyfish

The Box Jellyfish is a highly advanced species. Native to the shallow waters of Northern Australia and the Indo-Pacific region, the Box is considered to be one of the most poisonous sea creatures.

poisonous box jellyfish with translucent cubed bell

The pale blue and translucent cubed bell grows 15 10-inch tentacles with roughly 5,000 stinging cells each.

The sting is extremely painful and lethal, and any surviving victims will sustain extensive scarring. Its average lifespan is one year.

Most are about 10 feet long by 10 feet wide and weigh up to 4.4 pounds. They can move through the water up to 4.6 miles (four knots) per hour. 

Pink Comb Jelly

In the lower Chesapeake Bay area during the late summer and fall, Pink Comb jellies swim at the surface of shallow and deep waters.

barrel-shaped pink comb jelly glide in water

These barrel-shaped sea creatures are the size of a golf ball and consist of combs that produce colorful iridescent bands as they glide in the water.

Instead of stinging, their tentacles have colloblasts that produce a sticky, glue-like substance to catch their prey.

They have both male and female organs, meaning they can fertilize themselves. The four-inch-long pink to brownish transparent Comb Jelly feeds on sea walnuts, planktonic type organisms, and fish larvae.

Cauliflower Jellyfish

As the name implies, the Cauliflower Jellyfish resembles the white vegetable because of its crown-like appearance.

You may also know them as crown jellyfish or sea jellies. These creatures live for only six months.

The bells of the Cauliflowers are 7.8 inches tall, 6.7 inches in diameter, and have eight arms extending from them. These bluish-purplish jellyfish are the most venomous to their prey except humans.

They prefer 3,000 feet of frigidly cold water of the Atlantic and Pacific oceans during the day and then swim up to the surface at night. When they want to ward off predators, they illuminate themselves. 

Lion’s Mane Jellyfish

The Lion’s Mane Jellyfish is the largest known species so far. It measures roughly 120 feet long and eight feet wide.

It gets its name from its red and yellow tentacles. Lion’s Mane can own up to 1200 tentacles, each containing multiple neurotoxins, that can extend 100 feet long.

These giants love the cold waters of the Arctic, North Atlantic, and North Pacific oceans. As baby creatures, they start tan to orange, then turn bright red to dark purple as they mature. They feed on small fish, other jellies, and tiny crustaceans, such as crabs, shrimp, and shrill.

Portuguese Man-of-War

The Portuguese Man-O-War, or Bluebottle, is not a real jellyfish. It is a Siphonophore, referring to a cluster of organisms called polyps that depend on each other for survival.

There are four polyps, which sit on top of a pneumatophore, and have different functions, such as feeding, hunting, and reproducing.

The translucent and purplish-blue Bluebottle sits above the water and looks like a warship. Its sting is excruciating but not fatal to humans.

You can find the Man-O-War in clusters of 1,000 or more, in the warm water of oceans, from Florida to Texas-Atlantic, the Keys, and the Gulf of Mexico.                   

Flower Hat Jellyfish

What makes the Flower Hat Jellyfish unique is its resemblance to party streamers. Its tentacles are fluorescent and colorful.

The bell itself is transparent and houses six radial canals that range from light pink to coral. The size of these Jellyfish depends on the season and availability of food. Their sting can leave behind a painful rash.

They live primarily near Japan and thrive in the shallow water of the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans and along the coasts of Brazil and Argentina. They remain close to the seafloor during the day and swim to the surface at night.

Mauve Stingers

This small mauve mushroom-shaped bell with orange-brown warts can deliver a powerful sting, which is venomous to humans, causing whip-like scars across the body.

It glows brightly at night if something disturbs it. In July through October, you will find these beautiful jellies in the warm waters of the Mediterranean and the Atlantic Ocean.

The Mauve Stingers depend on their pink or mauve nematocysts to capture their prey and stun them.

Their diet includes other small jellyfish, sea squirts, crustaceans, and zooplankton. They can survive for two to six months and tend to die in rough waters.

Atolla Jellyfish

The Atolla Jellyfish likes to play hide-n-seek with its predators. It turns black when it detects danger, making it virtually invisible, which is why its nickname is the alarm jelly.

When not hiding, it glows a deep red and violet color. It lives deep in the midnight zones of the ocean, between 3,280 and 13,000 feet.

The Atolla ranges one to eight inches in diameter and 1.5 inches to 12 feet long, including its 20 long tentacles.

It has an extra-long tentacle for catching its prey. It will grab any sea animal nearby, including small crustaceans.

Moon Jelly

As its name implies, the Moon Jelly has a moon-like shape. Extending from its translucent bell are short tentacles with cnidocytes or stinging cells that grab its food, including sea plankton and mollusks.

This egg yolk jelly measures 10-16 inches in diameter. Its sting is not as painful but may leave a rash. The Moon Jellies reside in the NE Pacific, and the Monterey Bay, California, coastline.

They like areas with sunlight and human contact where fishing and pollution destroy most of its predators. They are not strong swimmers and wash ashore after storms or strong tides.

Nettle Sea

The Nettle Sea is a relative of sea anemones and coral. They thrive well on the east coast and the Gulf of Mexico, the west coast from Alaska to California, and the Bering Sea.

You may see the jellyfish in late Summer and early Fall. They travel 3600 feet up and down in the water every day.

The Nettle Seas’ bells are approximately 17.7 inches in diameter and consist of a yellow or orange.

Under the heads are 40 tentacles, about 12-15 feet long, with stinging cells to paralyze their prey. They feed on zooplankton, other jellies, and larval fishes.

Mushroom Cap Jelly

The Mushroom Cap Jelly, or sea mushroom jellyfish, has an obvious look. It contains a flat and soft mushroom-like bell that is translucent and gelatinous.

Each bell is roughly 20 inches in diameter and illuminates in various colors, such as white to light yellow, brown, blue, pink, or green.

Instead of tentacles, its eight oral arms and nematocysts catch small plankton parts. Its sting is mild.

The mushroom jellyfish are common in the lower Chesapeake Bay during the fall and early winter, the coast of the Northern Gulf of Mexico, and between North Carolina and New England.

Blue Buttons

The Blue Buttons is not an actual jellyfish. Similar to the Portuguese Man-O-War, this group of zooids floats together on the water surface and functions differently.

There are two main parts to this sea creature: the float, which is a brown disc-shaped main body, and the hydroid colony, which are tentacle-like branches with nematocysts that extend into the water.

Another unique feature of the Blue Buttons is that it eats and excretes waste through its mouth.

In the Gulf of Mexico, Pacific, Atlantic, and Indian oceans, these bright blue, turquoise, or yellow sea jellies float on the surface of the water.

By-the-Wind Sailor

This species is also like the Man-O-War and not a true jellyfish. The 10-cm long oval-shaped sea creature consists of a cluster of small animals.

They are surface-dwellers of warm water from September to March and travel on currents by the wind, hence the name By-the-Wind.

The deep bluish-purple-colored disc that floats atop the water includes a translucent sail made of chitin.

Strong winds and storms wash the sea life up on beaches along the coastline. If the jellies do not get back into the water within a couple of hours, they will dry, harden, and turn white.

Cannonball Jelly

The Cannonball Jellies are common on the Southeastern shoreline, estuaries, and saltwater. They are most abundant in the summer and fall.

The average size of these cabbage head jellies is 12.7 cm high, 18 cm wide, and 22.8 ounces. These cannonballs can’t swim but will drift with the water’s current.

They give off a toxic mucus that lures away predators or harms small fish but not always crabs.

The same toxin can lead to cardiac problems in humans and animals. The Cannonball Jelly is a delicacy in Asia after shrimp season.

Beroe Cucumis

Also known as Melon-Comb Jellies, these medium-sized, vase-like sea creatures are deep water dwellers of the North Atlantic Ocean and coastal waters of Northwestern Europe.

They have no tentacles but use their eight longitudinal shimmering combs with cilia to help them propel through the water.

As they move, Melon-Comb Jellies illuminate blue and green at night. They use their mouths to feed on other comb jellies and plankton whole.

Their bodies are about 95% water. These translucent jellyfish can get as long as 15 cm and will often travel in clusters. They are relatives of the sea gooseberry.

Crystal Jellyfish

The Crystal Jellyfish are the most influential bioluminescent sea organisms because of their contribution to laboratory and molecular studies.

Scientists use their proteins to learn more about cancer. These jellies reside in the Pacific from Southern California to Vancouver.

Unlike most jellies, the Crystal Jellies can live up to two years. These transparent sea animals give off a green-blue color when they feel there is a threat.

They can expand their mouths large enough to eat jellies twice their size. They can possess up to 100 long delicate tentacles. Though they are not harmful to humans, it is best not to touch them.

Pink Meanie Jellyfish

This giant jelly is extremely rare. It is very different from other true jellyfish and is thought to be in a family of its own.

This large pink beauty can get up to five feet wide and have up to 150 tentacles. You will likely find this unique jelly off the coast of Florida, the Gulf of Mexico, the Caribbean, Atlantic, and Pacific oceans.

Despite its name, the Pink Meanie is friendlier than other jellyfish. It feeds on its kind and can eat 34 at a time. Its sting feels more like a mosquito bite.

Bloodybelly Comb Jellyfish

The Bloodybelly is a native of the waters of Canada down to California and near Japan. Its blood-red stomach is the reason for the name.

Its belly turns bright red to conceal the bioluminescent prey in its stomach. Red is invisible in the sea and camouflages with the ocean floor to ward off predators.

This comb species is not a true jellyfish and uses its cilia to move about. It can grow to six inches long.

It is a deep-water dweller, living at depths of 980-3,320 feet. For its nutritional needs, it feeds on copepods and fish larvae.

Narcomedusae Jellyfish

When you look at this unique jellyfish you will notice it resembles Darth Vader’s helmet. It is mostly transparent and blue.

With this species, these babies grow inside their mom, then they attach to another jellyfish for its nutrition and safety. New offspring repeat the cycle.

The Narcomedusae has four tentacles plus four additional smaller ones, which have sensory organs to help balance their 12 stomach pouches.

At the end of those tentacles are poison-filled stinging cells. The Narcomedusae dwells in the deep Arctic Ocean, where there is no light, and it feeds on plankton, gelatinous creatures, and krill.

Final Thoughts

Jellyfish differ from other creatures because they lack a central nervous system, circulatory system, and respiratory system.

They are beneficial to the ocean by decreasing small sea life and protecting other ones from harm. They can also be dangerous and potentially cause health problems for humans and animals.

These spongy sea creatures are fascinating to watch, but they do need their space. Knowing how to identify the different types of jellyfish may help you stay safe while swimming in the ocean.

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