Cyanea capillata (Linnaeus, 1758)

Common name(s): Lion's mane jellyfish, Sea blubber, Sea nettle

Phylum Cnidaria
Class Scyphozoa
Order Semaestomeae
Family Cyaneidae
Cyanea capillata captured near Rosario Bay.  Bell diameter is about 12 cm in this position.
(Photo by: Dave Cowles, July 2007)
Description:  This Scyphomedusa has a saucer-shaped bell up to 2 m in diameter at high latitudes; more southern specimens such as those near Rosario are usually closer to 50 cm.  The bell has a thick center and a thinner margin.  The margin is divided into 8 pairs of thick lobes (for a total of 16 lobes) (photo).  Has 8 clusters of up to 150 highly extensible tentacles arranged in several rows, arising from horseshoe shaped regions between the lobes (photo).  Has 8 rhopalia, each of which is situated between the two lobes of a pair (photo).  Oral arms highly folded, forming a blocky mass only about as long as the bell is wide (but see this photo for extended oral arms).  Color deep brick red to purplish, rose, violet, or even milky white.  Yellowish-brown in small specimens, often more red in large individuals.  The swimming medusa looks like an 8 pointed star at the end of its power stroke.  The tentacles may trail down as far as 9 m in large specimens, 2 m in the 50 cm individuals found in our area.

How to Distinguish from Similar Species:  Phacellophora camtschatica also has 16 large marginal lobes, but they are not in pairs and between these are 16 smaller lobes resembling fish tails on which the rhopalia are found.  The tentacles are in 16 linear groups (not 8) of up to 25 tentacles per group, hanging from the subumbrella.  It is usually a lighter yellow color than is Cyanea capillata.

Geographical Range:  Arctic and north boreal.  In the Pacific it is common as far south as Washington, occasionally seen in Oregon, and probably not as far south as California.  In the Atlantic it can be found as far south as Florida and Mexico.

Depth Range:  Pelagic

Habitat:  Pelagic near surface, in polar and temperate coastal waters.

Biology/Natural History:  Probably lives less than one year.  This species can give a painful sting with blisters that lasts for several hours.  It is the most likely jellyfish in our area to sting you, and may even trigger allergic shock.  Feeds on small fish and crustaceans.  Several symbionts may be found on the bell, including juvenile pollock and other fish, and decapod megalops larvae.  The gonads of this species are 4 highly folded, ribbonlike structures that hang down under the bell and alternate with the 4 oral lobes.  This is the world's largest jellyfish.



Dichotomous Keys:
  Flora and Fairbanks, 1966
  Kozloff 1987, 1996
  Smith and Carlton, 1975

General References:
  Harbo, 1999
  Kozloff, 1993
  McConnaughey and McConnaughey, 1985
  Niesen, 1997
  Sept, 1999
  Wrobel and Mills, 1998

Scientific Articles:
Reum, Jonathan P., Mary E. Hunsicker, and Caroline E. Paulsen, 2010.  Species composition and relative abundance of large medusae in Puget Sound, Washington.  Northwest Science 84:1 pp. 131-140

Web sites:

General Notes and Observations:  Locations, abundances, unusual behaviors:

This is one of the most prominent and common jellyfish species seen around Rosario, especially in late summer.

This photo of the same individual as above shows the tentacles more contracted but the oral arms extended.
Note the crab megalops larva riding on the outside of the bell.

In this view the bell is expanded, ready for another power stroke.

The margin is divided into 8 pairs of lobes, with deeper notches between pairs.  This photo shows 3 sets of lobe pairs.  The rhopalia are on small flaps between the 2 lobes of a pair.

The tentacles are in 8 U-shaped groups of 4 rows each, centered between the pairs of lobes.  This view from under the bell basically shows that there is such a
profusion of tentacles, oral arms, and gonads under the bell that it is hard to distinguish any discrete U-shaped groups!

The animal can flatten its bell out so that the lobes project to the sides, as seen in this individual  floating near a jetty.

Authors and Editors of Page:
Dave Cowles (2007):  Created original page (an older page was prepared by Christina Smith)
Jonathan Cowles (2007):  Updated page with CSS