10 Extraordinary Jellyfish Species

wondrous jellyfish species

Treehugger / Alex Dos Diaz

Jellyfish are spectacular, rather baffling creatures, with extraterrestrial-like features and a penchant for extreme depths. Also known as sea jellies, these gelatinous nonfish lack brains, blood, and hearts. They can vary in size, color, shape, and behavior. (For instance, there are those that sting humans and those that don't.) More about the marine animal is still constantly being discovered.

Here are 10 unique jellyfish species that are both fascinating and beautiful.

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Cauliflower Jellyfish

Underside of a cauliflower jellyfish floating near the surface
Jao Cuyos / Getty Images

The cauliflower jelly (Cephea cephea) is named so because of the wartlike projections on its bell. Found in the mid-Pacific, the Indo-Pacific, and the Atlantic ocean off of West Africa, the crowned jelly—as it's sometimes also called—is an oceanic species that can grow relatively large, reaching diameters of up to two feet.

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Mangrove Box Jelly

Box jellyfish with dead fish in its stomach
Damocean / Getty Images

The mangrove box jelly (Tripedalia cystophora) is one of the smallest jellies in the sea—growing to be only the size of a grape. But what's even more unique is its cube-shaped medusa, a notable deviation from the familiar dome silhouette of most jellies. Its distinct squareness allows the mangrove box jelly to move rapidly through the water.

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Crystal Jellyfish

Transparent crystal jellyfish swimming
Weili Li / Getty Images

In the waters off North America’s West Coast lives the crystal jellyfish (Aequorea victoria), a species that is completely colorless and has long, wispy tentacles lining its glasslike bell. The remarkably gorgeous creature looks crystal clear in the daylight—hence its name—but its transparency belies a brighter side: Crystal jellyfish are actually bioluminescent, glowing green-blue when disturbed.

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White-Spotted Jellyfish

White-spotted jellyfish swimming sideways in black water
Axel Rosenberg / Getty Images

White-spotted jellies (Phyllorhiza punctata)—known for their speckled crowns—live in the western Pacific, from Australia to Japan. They are filter feeders that can sift through more than 13,000 gallons of water a day each in their quest for minuscule zooplankton.

The downside of their presence is that a swarm of them can clear an area of zooplankton, leaving none for the fish and crustaceans that also rely on them. In the Gulf of California, the Gulf of Mexico, and the Caribbean Sea, they're considered an invasive species.

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Upside-Down Jellyfish

Upside-down jellyfish swimming with tentacles up
Gerard Soury / Getty Images

The upside-down jellyfish (Cassiopea) rests its bell on the surface of the seafloor and swims with its stubby oral arms facing the sky. It does this to expose the symbiotic dinoflagellates living in its tissues to the sun, allowing them to photosynthesize, the Monterey Bay Aquarium says. The upside-down jelly is found in warm water, such as that around Florida and the Caribbean.

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Black Sea Nettle

Black Sea Nettle swimming in blue water
Yiming Chen / Getty Images

Despite its name, the black sea nettle (Chrysaora achlyos) is actually red in color, like many other deep-sea dwellers. The rich color allows them to blend in with the dark water. It's found deep in the Pacific off Southern California and is a giant among jellyfish. Its bell can reach three feet in diameter, its arms 20 feet long, and its stinging tentacles 25 feet long. Because they're not often found in the wild and difficult to raise in captivity, black sea nettles are still relatively obscure.

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Fried Egg Jellyfish

Characteristic yellow coloration of a fried egg jellyfish
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It's obvious where the fried egg jellyfish (Cotylorhiza tuberculata) got its name. Its yellow bell is surrounded by a lighter ring, often resembling an egg yolk. The mouth-arms of the fried egg jellyfish (also called the Mediterranean jellyfish) are truncated, and there are longer projections with disklike ends, giving it the look of a dome dotted with purple and white pebbles. This species survives for only about six months, from summer to winter, dying when the water cools down.

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Lion's Mane Jellyfish

Lion's mane jellyfish swimming along a rocky surface
James R.D. Scott / Getty Images

The lion's mane jellyfish (Cyanea capillata) is the largest known jellyfish species, able to grow up to six and a half feet long. The average length is a foot and a half. Its "mane" is made up of hundreds (sometimes more than a thousand) of tentacles divided into eight clusters. Sometimes called the Arctic red jellyfish or the hairy jelly, it lives in the boreal waters of the Arctic, northern Atlantic, and northern Pacific Oceans.

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Atolla Jellyfish

Underside of an Atolla jelly with long, thin tentacles

Ocean Networks Canada / Flickr / CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

The Atolla jellyfish (Coronate medusa) is widely distributed around the world. Like many other deep-sea dwellers, it has bioluminescent abilities, but it doesn't use its bioluminescence to attract prey like the rest. Instead, it glows to deter predators.

When an Atolla jellyfish is attacked, it creates a series of flashes that attract even more predators, with hopes of them being more interested in the original attacker than the jellyfish itself. This is why the species has also been called the alarm jellyfish.

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Glowing Narcomedusae swimming in black water

Kevin Raskoff / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

The Narcomedusae—its scientific name is sometimes shortened to "narcos"—is a rather unusual-looking species of jellyfish that can have a whopping dozen or more stomach pouches. To keep them full, it will swim while holding its long, poison-filled tentacles out in front of it. Scientists believe this helps them ambush prey more effectively.

View Article Sources
  1. "Crown Jelly." Monterey Bay Aquarium.

  2. "Mangrove Box Jelly." Monterey Bay Aquarium.

  3. "Crystal Jelly." Monterey Bay Aquarium.

  4. "White-Spotted Jellyfish." California Academy of Sciences.

  5. "White Spotted Jellyfish." USDA National Invasive Species Information Center.

  6. "Upside-Down Jelly." Monterey Bay Aquarium.

  7. "Black Sea Nettle." Monterey Bay Aquarium.

  8. "Fried Egg Jellyfish." Oceana.

  9. "Lion's Mane Jellyfish." Oceana.

  10. "Aeginopsis Laurentii." Arctic Ocean Diversity.