Brief Summary

Fossil species

recent & fossil


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Physical Description

Diagnostic Description


Hydroid colonial, mobile, when mature floating on water surface, with a chitinous internal skeleton, forming a floating chamber, covered by mantle, hydranths polymorphic on underside of float, one central, large, atentaculate gastrozooid; surrounded by gastro-gonozooids and dactylozooids; tentacles capitate or reduced to nematocyst patches. Medusa with evenly-rounded bell; four or eight radial canals and an equal number of exumbrellar nematocystcyst tracks containing stenoteles, nematocyst tracks originating from marginal bulbs; circular canal present; manubrium short, conical; mouth circular; gonads perradial or irregularly arranged perradially and interradially; two opposite thin marginal tentacles terminating in large spherical nematocyst knob, with or without an additional adaxially oriented short tentacle developed from tentaculiferous bulbs; two or six small marginal bulbs without tentacles; ocelli lacking; cndome comprising spherical stenoteles, macrobasic euryteles and atrichous haplonemes; zooxanthellae generally present.
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Source: World Register of Marine Species


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Molecular Biology and Genetics

Molecular Biology

Statistics of barcoding coverage

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLD) Stats
Specimen Records:84
Specimens with Sequences:53
Specimens with Barcodes:50
Species With Barcodes:2
Public Records:0
Public Species:0
Public BINs:0
Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 (CC BY 3.0)

© Barcode of Life Data Systems

Source: Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLD)


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The chondrophores or porpitids are a small and very unusual group of hydrozoans today classified as family Porpitidae. Though it derives from an outdated name for this lineage (see below), some still find the term "chondrophore" useful as a synonym to "porpitid" in discussions of the three genera contained therein.

They all live at the surface of the open ocean, and are colonies of carnivorous, free-floating hydroids whose role in the plankton community is similar to that of pelagic jellyfish. The chondrophores look like a single organism but are actually colonial animals, made up of orderly cooperatives of polyps living under specialized sail-structures.

The most familiar members of the family Porpitidae are the Blue Button (Porpita porpita) and the By-the-wind Sailor (Velella velella).


Velella velella on the southern coast of Sicily.

The tiny individual animals are specialized to perform specific tasks; some form the central gas-filled disc (which is a golden brown colour and hardened by chitinous material) essential to keeping the colony afloat; others form radiating tentacles for tasks such as catching prey, reproduction, and digestion. Microplankton is a chondrophore's principal prey. Although none have powerful stings, contact with the skin may cause irritation. At the mercy of winds and currents, chondrophores are pelagic and drift in the open ocean. They are often seen in large aggregations; mass beachings are not unusual. Chondrophores multiply by releasing tiny (0.3-2.5 millimetres or 0.01-0.09 inches) medusae which go on to develop new colonies.

Velella differs from Porpita by their transparent, membranous sail-shaped floats; filled with gas, the membranes have a texture reminiscent of cellophane. Both genera have turquoise to dark blue mantles and tentacles, with lemon-yellow morphs occasionally encountered. Neither group is particularly large: the floats of Velella are usually under 7.6 centimetres (3 inches) in diameter, while those of Porpita are usually less than 3.8 centimetres (1.5 inches). Very little is known about Porpema, as there have been no confirmed sightings since the discovery of the genus. It's existence is questionable.


The order Chondrophora was created by A.K. Totton in 1954 to accommodate these three unusual genera of Hydrozoa as their taxonomic affinities were unclear.[1] They had previously been placed either in the Anthomedusae (also known as Athecata) or the Siphonophora, and though many accepted Totton's placement, a considerable number of authors maintained them in the Anthomedusae/Athecata all the time.

By the 1970s/1980s, nearly all Hydrozoan systematists were in agreement that these genera did indeed belong in that group[2] and the order Chondrophora became defunct, replaced by the family Porpitidae, which took priority over the less-old name Velellidae (the group was subdivided into these two families when still ranked as an order). In modern classifications, the Porpitidae are included in the infraorder Zancleida of the hydrozoan suborder Capitata.[3]

They are believed to have originated in the late Proterozoic period, some 650-540 million years ago. A rare soft-bodied fossil that was recovered from the Farmers Member of the Borden Formation (Mississippian age) in northeastern Kentucky was interpreted as a chondrophorine float.[4]


  1. ^ Totton (1954)
  2. ^ Brinckmann-Voss (1970)
  3. ^ Schuchert (2008)
  4. ^ Ellis L. Yochelson and Charles E. Mason. 1986. A Chondrophorine Coelenterate from the Borden Formation (Lower Mississippian) of Kentucky, Journal of Paleontology, Vol. 60, No. 5 (Sep., 1986), pp. 1025-1028 [1]


  • Brinckmann-Voss, A. (1970): Anthomedusae/Athecatae (Hydrozoa, Cnidaria) of the Mediterranean. Part I. Capitata. Fauna e Flora del Golfo di Napoli 39: 1-96, 11 plates.
  • Schuchert, Peter (2008): The Hydrozoa Directory - Subclass Capitata Kühn, 1913. Retrieved 2008-JUL-08.
  • Totton, A.K. (1954): Siphonophora of the Indian Ocean together with systematic and biological notes on related specimens from other oceans. Discovery Reports 27: 1-162.
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