Overview

Brief Summary

Stomolophus meleagris, otherwise known as the cannonball jellyfish, is a species of jellyfish that resembles a cannonball in both shape and size. It has oral arms underneath its body that extend out around the mouth. This species feeds mainly on zooplankton and has a symbiotic relationship with the portly spider crab, which also feeds on zooplankton. Like most cnidarians, the cannonball jellyfish can reproduce both sexually and asexually.

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Distribution

Stomolophus melegris, the cannonball jellyfish, is most abundant in the southeastern United States and the Gulf Coast. They also inhabit the western Atlantic from New England to Brazil, the eastern Pacific from southern California to Ecuador, and the western Pacific from the Sea of Japan to the South China Sea.

Biogeographic Regions: atlantic ocean (Native ); pacific ocean (Native )

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'Stomolophus is usually described as the most abundant scyphozoan in the Gulf, particularly in the late summer and fall when it 'swarms' around inlet passes.' (Rountree 1983)

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Physical Description

Morphology

Stomolophus meleagris is a small jellyfish, with a height of 12.7 cm and a width of 18.0 cm. Some have been found up to 25 cm in width. Mass ranged in one study from 143-1378 grams. The cannonball jellyfish looks like a thick hemispherical bell and can have several different color schemes, including milky blue or yellow, with or without a border of brown pigment. This jellyfish has 16 short, forked fused orals arms instead of the normal tentacles. Stomolophus meleagris also has secondary mouth folds (scapulets) covered with mucus, thought to be for trapping small prey. The name Stomolophus meleagris means “many mouthed hunter”.

Range mass: 143 to 1378 g.

Average length: 12.7 cm.

Other Physical Features: ectothermic ; heterothermic ; radial symmetry ; venomous

Sexual Dimorphism: sexes alike

  • Hsieh, P., J. Rudloe, F. Leong. 2001. Jellyfish as food. Hydrobiologia, 451: 11-17.
  • Roundtree, R. 1983. The ecology of Stomolophus meleagris, the cannonball jellyfish, and its symbionts, with special emphasis on behavior. Wilmington, North Carolina: Honors program thesis, Department of biological sciences, University of North Carolina.
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Size

Dome-shaped bell can be up to 25 cm (10 inches) in diameter.

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Ecology

Habitat

Stomolophus meleagris is found within saline and estuarine waters by the shoreline. The waters they inhabit are usually around 23.1 degrees C and on average the water salinity is 33.8 ppt.

Habitat Regions: tropical ; saltwater or marine

Aquatic Biomes: coastal

Other Habitat Features: estuarine

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Depth range based on 13 specimens in 1 taxon.
Water temperature and chemistry ranges based on 9 samples.

Environmental ranges
  Depth range (m): 0 - 128
  Temperature range (°C): 18.920 - 26.658
  Nitrate (umol/L): 0.325 - 6.247
  Salinity (PPS): 35.209 - 36.499
  Oxygen (ml/l): 3.418 - 4.870
  Phosphate (umol/l): 0.085 - 0.636
  Silicate (umol/l): 0.756 - 4.097

Graphical representation

Depth range (m): 0 - 128

Temperature range (°C): 18.920 - 26.658

Nitrate (umol/L): 0.325 - 6.247

Salinity (PPS): 35.209 - 36.499

Oxygen (ml/l): 3.418 - 4.870

Phosphate (umol/l): 0.085 - 0.636

Silicate (umol/l): 0.756 - 4.097
 
Note: this information has not been validated. Check this *note*. Your feedback is most welcome.

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Trophic Strategy

Stomolophus meleagris eats macrocrustaceans and zooplankton that are generally bivalve veligers, fish eggs and larvae. The will also feed on red drum larvae. They eat by sucking water into spaces within the sixteen scapulets (mouth folds) when the bell contracts.

Animal Foods: fish; eggs; zooplankton

Primary Diet: carnivore (Piscivore , Eats eggs, Eats non-insect arthropods); planktivore

  • Duffy, J., C. Epifanio, L. Fuiman. 1997. Mortality rates imposed by three scyphozoans on red drum (Sciaenops ocellatus Linnaeus) larvae in field enclosures. Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology, 212/1: 123-131.
  • Larson J., R. 1991. Diet, prey selection and daily ration of Stomolophus meleagris, a filter-feeding scyphomedusa from the NE Gulf of Mexico. Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science, 32/5: 511-525.
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Feed on zooplankton and red drum larvae.

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Associations

Stomolophus meleagris affects the ecosystem in two main ways. These jellyfish are one of the main food sources of food for the endangered leatherback turtle, Dermochelys coriacea. Other species of fish and crustaceans use cannonball jellyfish as a source for food, including the stone crab Menippe mercenaria, blue crabs, Callinectes, and the Atlantic spadefish Chaetodipterus faber.

Cannonball jellyfish also form symbiotic relationships with marine species, including ten species of fish and the juvenile long-nosed spider crab, Libinia dubia. The symbionts use the jellyfish for protection and feed on the zooplankton that the jellyfish take in, as well as zooplankton that are on the medusa itself.

Most symbiotic relationships of S. meleagris are commensalistic, but some symbionts may be parasitic, feeding on the medusa itself. However, the medusa can generate quickly so the jellyfish is not harmed much.

Cannonball jellyfish numbers may also affect populations of their symbiotic fish and spider crabs. The symbionts could be depleted alongside the jellyfish, as some hide inside the bell cavity of the jellyfish when harvested. The symbionts can be injured in the process or simply lose the host from which they gather food.

Commensal/Parasitic Species:

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When Stomolophus meleagris is disturbed it secretes toxic mucus that can harm or drive away predators. One of the main predators of S. meleagris is the endangered leatherback turtle, Dermochelys coriacea. Other crabs and fish also eat this species.

Known Predators:

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General Ecology

Ecology

'The scyphozoan Stomolophus meleagris , when disturbed (held in a container), discharges a sticky mucus. Toxins released into the mucus and water kill some fish and crustaceans and can immediately alter fish behavior, but did not affect a crab predator of S. meleagris . The mucus contains discharged and undischarged nematocysts. The toxins in the mucus are probably associated with these nematocysts.' (Oldendorf 1988)

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Life History and Behavior

Behavior

Social communication between jellyfish is not very common. Stomolophus meleagris, however, has been seen forming dense aggregations. Under certain conditions it also displays distinctive horizontal movements that may be related to waves, tides or other conditions.

The cannonball jellyfish has light sensing organs called rhopalia and statocysts to determine direction according to gravity. A nerve net is used to detect external stimuli like touch.

Perception Channels: visual ; tactile

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Life Cycle

The life cycle of Stomolophus meleagris is very similar to the life cycle of many scyphozoans. Beginning as an elongated and cylindrical planula without a mouth, this species has an endodermal mass surrounded by a ciliated ectoderm. The planula swims around for a few days, then attaches to a substrate where it can metamorphosize into a scyphistoma (the sessile polyp stage).

The scyphistoma is flask-shaped and has a narrowing stalk. Tentacles begin to show near the bulbous calyx, and a mouth appears and is able to dilate. The oral disk contains the proboscis and 8 contractile tentacles appear as the scyphistoma develops. At the fully mature state, it has 16 filiform tentacles. The proboscis is developed along with the mouth. Scyphistomae eat and grow to a maximum size of a few millimeters. This stage can reproduce asexually, where the formation of podocysts and motile or non-motile buds can break off. These podocysts in the Scyphozoa are resistant to adverse environmental conditions.

The next stage, the strobila, occurs under favorable conditions, and involves segmentation and metamorphosis. Segmentation of incisions begins proximal to the tentacular ring, which would form segments representing ephyra (immature medusa). Thirty-six hours into the strobila process, the tentacles of S. meleagris start to regress, contract, and expand periodically. After 54 hours, all tentacles of the original scyphistoma are completely reabsorbed, but new tentacles began to regenerate. In the late strobila phase incisions deepen and separate the developing ephyrae, which increase in size and undergo rapid development. Ephyrae are liberated about 3.5 days after strobilation begins. Once the one or more free swimming ephyrae are released, the scyphistoma is small, but rapidly returns to normal size and can repeat strobilation.

From the ephyra the medusa, or sexual stage, forms and produces fertilized eggs that develop into the planula motile larva.

Development - Life Cycle: metamorphosis

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'After swimming actively for 2-5 days, the ciliated planula larvae settled and scyphistoma morphogenesis occurred. Fully developed scyphistomae were cone-shaped and bore a whorl of about 16 tentacles around a dome- or knob-shaped proboscis. Podocyst formation was the only observed method of asexual reproduction in cultures of scyphistomae maintained for one month. Strobilation began as soon as nine days after scyphistoma morphogenesis and occurred in scyphistomae with as few as eight tentacles... Most strobilae produced two ephyrae each, although the number varied from one to three. Some scyphistomae began to strobilate a second time within a week after completion of an initial round of strobilation.' (Calder 1982)

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Life Expectancy

Stomolophus meleagris has an average lifespan from three to six months. Many of the jellyfish die within months because of predators, but throughout their short life they can reproduce many times.

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Reproduction

The medusae stage is the sexually reproducing and motile stage of the jellyfish. Gametes are released into the water.

Mating System: polygynandrous (promiscuous)

Stomolophus meleagris has a life history cycle like most other schyphozoans, with alternation of generations between asexually and sexually reproducing phases. The scyphistoma stage reproduces asexually.

The scyphistoma can enter a strobila stage that produces medusae, the sexually reproducing and motile stage of a jellyfish.

Key Reproductive Features: sexual ; asexual ; fertilization (External ); broadcast (group) spawning

Fertilization occurs outside Stomolophus meleagris, and no parental care occurs.

Parental Investment: no parental involvement

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Conservation

Conservation Status

Stomolophus meleagris does not have a conservation status. However, it is a main food source for the leatherback turtle, Dermochelys coriacea, a critically endangered species under IUCN and a U.S.federally endangered species.

US Federal List: no special status

CITES: no special status

State of Michigan List: no special status

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Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems

Benefits

Although they have nematocysts, stinging cells, they are fairly innocuous to humans and do not cause much damage. Rarely, the sting can lead to cardiac problems.

Negative Impacts: injures humans (bites or stings, venomous )

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Stomolophus meleagris is harvested for food mainly in Asia. Demand for this species appears to be growing and the fishery has been expanding to include North American waters.

Positive Impacts: food ; source of medicine or drug

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Uses

'A pilot plant process was developed to produce salted dried jellyfish product from cannonball jellyfish (Stomolophus meleagris). Processed products containing an average of 68% moisture, 5.5% protein, 26% ash and 25% salt were obtained by brining with different mixtures of salt (7.5–25%) and alum (1–2.5%) over 1 wk. Mechanical drying was also tested by using a heat pump system dryer. Chemical and physical analyses and sensory properties of cannonball jellyfish products compared favorably with market products. Levels of calcium, magnesium and iron in the jellyfish were higher than those of zinc and copper.' (Huang 2006)

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Wikipedia

Cannonball jellyfish

The cannonball jellyfish (Stomolophus meleagris), also known as the cabbage head jellyfish, is a species of jellyfish in the family Stomolophidae. Its common name derives from its similarity to a cannonball in shape and size. Its dome-shaped bell can reach 25 cm (10 inches) in diameter and the rim is sometimes colored with brown pigment. Underneath of the body is a cluster of oral arms that extend out around the mouth. These arms function as a way of propulsion and aid in catching prey.[2] Cannonballs are prominent from North America's eastern seaboard all the way to Brazil, but are also found in parts of the Pacific.

Habitat[edit]

A cannonball jellyfish in the water near Dog Island, Florida, in the United States

Cannonballs live in warm, estuarian waters, with an average temperature of 23.1 °C (73.6 °F) and average salinities of 33.8 ppt (parts per thousand).[3]

They have been found in the northwest and east-central Pacific Ocean (South China Sea to Sea of Japan, and California to Ecuador) and the mid-west Atlantic Ocean (New England to Brazil).[4] They are common on the southeastern coast of the United States, including the Gulf Coast. On the southeast coast they are extremely abundant in the fall and summer months. During these months, cannonballs make up over 16% of the biomass in the shallow inshore areas.[5]

Diet[edit]

Cannonballs eat mainly zooplankton such as veligers, and also all forms of red drum larvae. They have a symbiotic relationship with the portly spider crab, which also eats the small zooplankton. The crab feeds on the prey captured by the cannonball and also on the medusae of the jellyfish.[4]

Reproduction[edit]

As in most cnidarians sexual reproduction is not an imperative way for cannonballs to reproduce. They can reproduce both sexually and asexually.[6]

During sexual reproduction, cannonballs shoot sperm out of their mouth. The sperm are then caught by another cannonball through the mouth and fertilization happens. The embryo begins to develop in specialized pouches found on the arms around the mouth. After about 3-5 hours the larvae fall to the bottom and attach themselves to a hard structure. There they develop into polyps and catch small prey that swims by. After several days the polyp will detach and become a swimming ephyra, and will eventually turn into an adult jellyfish.[7]

Toxin[edit]

When disrupted the cannonball secretes a mucus out of its nematocyst that contains a toxin. The toxin harms small fish in the immediate area, and drives away most predators, except for certain types of crabs.[8] Although cannonballs do not commonly sting humans, it still has toxins which can cause cardiac problems in animals and humans. The toxin causes irregular heart rhythms and problems in the myocardial conduction pathways. Such complications are associated also with toxins of other cnidaria.[9] The toxin is also harmful to the eyes, when the nematocyst comes in contact with eyes it is very painful and is followed with redness and swelling.

Predators[edit]

One of the main predators of cannonball jellyfish is the endangered species leatherback sea turtle. When leatherbacks migrate north from the Caribbean from April to early summer they feed on the cannonballs. Cannonballs are a main source of food for the leatherbacks, so conservation of cannonball jellyfish is important to the survival of the leatherbacks.[10]

Cannonball jellyfish are commercially harvested as food for humans.[11][12]

Commercial fishing[edit]

Georgia jellyfish are dried, preserved and packaged before being sold to a seafood distributor that ships them to Japan, China and Thailand.

Along the coast of the southern U.S. state of Georgia, jellyfish are a valuable export, which end up on dining tables across Asia. The jellyfish are dried, preserved and packaged before being sold to a seafood distributor that ships them to Japan, China, and Thailand.

Jellyball (as they are known locally) fishing is Georgia’s third largest commercial fishery — after shrimp and crabs — but only five boats are permitted to catch them. [13]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Agassiz, Louis (1860). Contributions to the natural history of the United States of America. Vol. 3. Boston: Little Brown and Co. p. 301. 
  2. ^ "Cannonball Jellyfish". Georgia Department of Natural Resources. Retrieved 2009-02-10. 
  3. ^ Griffin, Dubose B.; Murphy, Thomas M. "Cannonball Jellyfish". Retrieved 2008-11-17. 
  4. ^ a b DuBose B. Griffin. Cannonball Jellyfish (PDF). South Carolina Department of Natural Resources. Retrieved 2007-11-10. 
  5. ^ SHALLOW WATER TRAWL SURVEY, SEMAP-SA. "Results of the Trawling Efforts in the Coastal Habitat of the South Atlantic Bight". SEAMAP-SA: 72. Retrieved 2008-11-03. 
  6. ^ Daphne Gail Fautin (2002). "Reproduction of Cnidaria". Canadian Journal of Zoology 80 (10): 1735–1754. doi:10.1139/z02-133. 
  7. ^ Whitaker, J. David; King, Dr. Rachael; Knott, David. "Jellyfish". Marine Resources Division. Retrieved 2008-11-17. 
  8. ^ Shanks, AL; Graham, WM (1988). "Chemical defense in a scyphomedusa.". Pro Quest. Retrieved 2009-01-27. 
  9. ^ Toom, PM; Larsen, JB; Chan, DS; Pepper, DA; Price, W. "Cardiac effects of Stomolophus meleagris (cabbage head jellyfish) toxin.". Retrieved 2008-11-12. 
  10. ^ Murphy, Sally; Murphy, Tom. "Leatherback Turtles". Retrieved 2009-01-30. 
  11. ^ Jellyfish#Culinary_uses
  12. ^ Hsieh, Y-H. Peggy; Leong, Fui-Ming; Rudloe, Jack. "Jellyfish as food". Retrieved 2009-10-08. 
  13. ^ "US Jellyfish Land on Asian Dinner Tables". Retrieved 2012-03-28. 

This article incorporates public domain text from the Voice of America, at http://www.voanews.com/english/news/usa/US-Jellyfish-Land-on-Asian-Dinner-Tables-143681576.html

Further reading[edit]

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