Facts About the Lion’s Mane Jellyfish
Lion’s Mane Jellyfish

10 Facts About the Lion’s Mane Jellyfish

10 Facts About the Lion’s Mane Jellyfish

The stunning—and stinging—lion’s mane jellyfish (Cyanea capillata) ranks among earth’s most beautiful creatures. 

Here are 10 amazing facts.

1. IT CAN GROW UP TO 120 FEET LONG.

By comparison, the largest recorded blue whale was a paltry 108 feet long. But don’t go around calling this jellyfish the world’s longest animal. Some marine biologists claim the saltwater bootlace worm (Lineus longissimus) deserves that title—when fully extended, it can stretch 180 feet from end to end!

2. IT EATS AND EXPELS WASTE THROUGH THE SAME ORIFICE.

Jellyfish have a very special opening designed to perform double-duty as both a mouth and an anus. At least they’re economical.

3. IT ISN’T IMMUNE TO PREDATION.

lion’s mane jellyfish need to watch their backs around famished anemones. Also, leatherback sea turtles have been seen gobbling them up off the coasts of Canada. The reptiles’ throats contain backward-pointing spikes called oral papillae to help move food in the direction of the stomach, they also make escaping pretty difficult.

4. LION’S MANE JELLYFISH COME IN A VARIETY OF COLORS.

Large individuals are often red or purple, while smaller specimens tend to be shades of tannish-orange.

5. A SINGLE SPECIMEN MAY HAVE STUNG OVER 50 PEOPLE.

June 16, 2010 was a weird day for New England beach-goers. Somewhere between 50 and 100 swimmers were stung off the coasts of Rye, New Hampshire and, when a 40-pound lion’s mane corpse was found at the scene, the authorities felt they’d found their perpetrator.

6. THESE GUYS CAN HAVE UP TO 1200 TENTACLES.

These are arranged in eight sets that contain between 70 and 150 individual tentacles apiece. Now there’s some Grade-A nightmare fuel…

7. UNFORTUNATELY, A FAMOUS PICTURE WAS FAKED.

As far as being awesome is concerned, nature doesn’t need the Internet’s help. Perhaps you’ve seen this photo, which happens to be Google Images’ number one search result for “giant jellyfish.” Many blogs and news sites have claimed that this thing is an especially-large lion’s mane jellyfish. But so far as we know, this species has a maximum diameter of only seven and a half feet—far smaller than the monster pictured here. What gives? As you might have guessed, it’s Photoshopped.

8. IT MAKES DO WITH A YEAR-LONG LIFESPAN.

Believe it or not, one type of jellyfish may be functionally immortal. Sadly, the lion’s mane jelly doesn’t follow suit.

9. THE LION’S MANE JELLYFISH LIKE IT COLD.

Frequent denizens of harsh, Arctic waters, lion’s mane jellyfish are seldom seen below the northern 42nd parallel. Also, they gravitate towards the surface and almost never venture beneath depths of 66 feet.

10. LIKE OTHER JELLYFISH, IT REPRODUCES BOTH SEXUALLY AND ASEXUALLY.

Jellies take on several forms in their complicated life cycles. Upon entering what’s called the “medusa” stage and becoming “adults,” they can reproduce by releasing sperm and eggs. However, as stationary entities rooted to the ocean floor while in the “polyp” stage, they’re capable of asexually cloning themselves.