Aurelia labiata (Linnaeus, 1758)

Common name(s): Moon jelly, Common jellyfish

Synonyms:  Aurelia aurita
Phylum Cnidaria
 Class Scyphozoa
  Order Semaeostomae
   Family Ulmaridae
    Subfamily Aureliinae
Aurelia labiata, about 15 cm diameter, drifted near shore at Keystone ferry, WA
(Photo by: Dave Cowles, August 2006)
Description:  This pelagic jellyfish has many very short tentacles, forming a fringe at the margin of the bell.  It has 16 marginal lobes and 8 rhopalia.  Each rhopalium has a small tentaclelike lappet on each side of it, and also has eyespots.  The subumbrellar canals are branched and anastomosing.  The oral arms meet at the center of the subumbrella (it has no manubrium), and extend beyond the bell usually with crenulated margins (photo) (but the oral arm margins may be smooth instead).  Usually an opaque whitish, though sometimes with other colors.  The conspicuous, horseshoe-shaped gonads are whitish or may be violet or pink (in males, photo) or whitish or yellow (in females).  The margin is not brown.  The bell is usually wider than high.  Up to 40 cm diameter; usually 10-15 cm.

How to Distinguish from Similar Species:  The rare Aurelia limbata has profusely branched subumbrellar canals and the margin is dark brown.  It is found off Alaska. Aurelia aurita is a very similar Atlantic and Baltic species which has 8 rather than 16 marginal lobes and has unbranched rather than anastomosing adradial canals.  Until recently A. labiata along this coast were thought to be A. aurita.

Geographical Range:  Found in most seas, from the poles to the tropics.  Includes seas off Europe, Japan, Gulf of Mexico, E. US.  Probably not native to the Pacific Coast of N. America, but now can be found all along the coast at times.  May have originally been from Europe.

Depth Range:  Shallow pelagic.  Often washes up on beaches.

Habitat:  Pelagic, inshore and offshore (often in large aggregations in our area)

Biology/Natural History:  Abundance of this species varies widely seasonally and from year to year.  Females of this species carry young larvae on the inner edges of the oral arms. Scyphistomae can sometimes be seen in large numbers attached on floating docks or on protected rocks in the lower intertidal, and are about 1 cm long when extended, with long tentacles.  In central CA the scyphistomae are seen beginning in February and strobilate around March. In Washington they strobilate January to April (Purcell et al., 2009).  The medusae grow rapidly and are sexually mature by June.  Most medusae die after reproducing but some live a second year.  Polyps (scyphistomae) feed by predation like small anemones.  The medusa feeds by capturing small organisms such as copepods on mucus, which is then moved to the mouth by cilia.  The medusa seems to make little use of nematocycts in capturing food.  Individuals of this species from cold waters can survive being frozen solid in ice.  The species appears to migrate toward the surface during the day and downward at night.  The umbrella pulsing originates in one of the eight rhopalia, and spreads via the nerve net.  When starved, this species can shrink dramatically in size while retaining functionality.  The tentacles of this species may trigger a slight rash.  The species is sometimes eaten by blue rockfish Sebastes mystinus.

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Dichotomous Keys:
  Kozloff 1987, 1996 (As A. aurita)
  Smith and Carlton, 1975  (As A. aurita)
  Carlton, 2007

General References: (Most refer to A. aurita)
  Brusca and Brusca, 1978
  Gotshall, 1994
  Gotshall and Laurent, 1979
  Johnson and Snook, 1955
  Kozloff, 1993
  Lamb and Hanby, 2005
  McConnaughey and McConnaughey, 1985
  Morris et al., 1980
  Niesen, 1994
  Niesen, 1997
  Ricketts et al., 1985
  Sept, 1999
  Wrobel and Mills, 1998

Scientific Articles:
Costello, John H., Sean P. Colin, and John O. Dabiri, 2008.  Medusan morphospace:  phylogenetic constraints, biomechanical solutions, and ecological consequences.  Invertebrate Biology 127(3): 265-290

Gershwin, Lisa-ann, 2001.  Systematics and biogeography of the jellyfish Aurelia labiata (Cnidaria: Scyphozoa).  Biological Bulletin 201: 104-119

Mackie, G.O., R.J. Larson, K.S. Larson, and L.M. Passano, 1981.  Swimming and vertical migration of Aurelia aurita (L.) in a deep tank.  Mar. Behav. Physiol. 7: 321-329

Purcell, Jennifer E., Richard A. Hoover, and Nathan T. Schwarck, 2009.  Interannual variation of strobilation by the scyphozoan Aurelia labiata in relation to polyp density, temperature, salinity, and light conditions in situ.  Marine Ecology Progress Series 375: 139-149

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 species was fairly common around Rosario Bay summer 2006.  We observed one individual captured by what appeared to be Urticina crassicornis in about 18 m of water.   According to Purcell et al., the scyphistema larvae of this species are common on the underside of docks near here, such as in Cornet Bay. 


This view of the underside shows the frilly oral arms.  Note that the tentacles are in an extended position.  Photo by Dave Cowles at Monterey Bay Aquarium August 2010.

Male gonads

The gonads in this male are pink or lilac.  Photo by Dave Cowles, August 2010 at Monterey Bay Aquarium

Authors and Editors of Page:
Dave Cowles (2006):  Created original page
Edited by Dave Cowles, 2009