Overview

Distribution

Chrysaora quinquecirrha (Desor, 1848), commonly known as the Atlantic sea nettle or East Coast sea nettle, is broadly dispersed in tepid waters along the coasts of the Atlantic and Indian Oceans, as well as the Western Pacific. Along the United States east coast this species is common to abundant from southern New England to as far south as Brazil. In Virginia waters these jellies first appear in May, and usually vanish around September, though some occasionally remain well into November.

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

  • Calder, D. 1972. Development of the sea nettle Chrysaora quinquecirrha. Chesapeake Science, 13: 40-44.
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circum-global
  • UNESCO-IOC Register of Marine Organisms
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Physical Description

Morphology

The body of Chrysaora quinquecirrha is mainly composed of an outer epidermis cup, an inner gastrodermis layer, and tentacles. Along the outside of the rim of the umbrella cup are long, skinny tentacles, which may grow up to 50 centimeters. The dome-shaped body of the jellyfish is approximately 25 centimeters in width, and has 8 scalloped, flower-petal shaped lobes from which tentacles extend. Each octant bears around 7 to 10 tentacles, all of which are lined with nematocysts (specialized stinging organelles). Four long, ribbon-like oral arms extend from the middle of the umbrella. The arms bring food up to the mouth, which is the only opening comprising the digestive system. This opening is lined with thousands of small mouthlet pores. The adult Atlantic sea nettle’s body is an opaque white color, often with red streaks or dots visible through the cup and tentacles. The life of C. quinquecirrha is dominated by two main cycles, each with a distinct body plan. First, the jellyfish live as a sessile polyp, then as a mobile medusa. The polyp stage is characterized by strobilation, in which the segmented polyp asexually produces young medusa. The medusa is the second stage of the life cycle.

Average length: 50 cm.

Average wingspan: 25 cm.

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

Sexual Dimorphism: sexes alike

  • Costello, J., S. Colin, J. Dabiri. 2008. Medusan morphospace: phylogenetic constraints, biomechanical solutions, and ecological consequences. Invertebrate Biology, 127(3): 265-290.
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Diagnostic Description

Description

Width to 25 cm. Bell surface with fine warts. Four separate mouth-arms, up to 50 cm long, with frilled edges. Bell divided into eight sections (octants); each octant with two notched, tongue-shaped lappets, three main tentacles and a minor one either side (thus five, hence the species name). Bell colour varies from transparent to bluish, pink, yellow or brown, maybe reddish streaked radially. Under-bell may be white; mouth arms pink to yellow with red speckles. Habitat: coastal. Distribution: Indo-Pacific, also Atlantic (Richmond, 1997).
  • Richmond, M. (Ed.) (1997). A guide to the seashores of Eastern Africa and the Western Indian Ocean islands. Sida/Department for Research Cooperation, SAREC: Stockholm, Sweden. ISBN 91-630-4594-X. 448 pp.
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Ecology

Habitat

Chrysaora quinquecirrha inhabits temperate waters and Atlantic estuaries which are low in salinity. In the Chesapeake Bay, from July through August, the nettles are most commonly found in meso-and polyhaline waters of the copious creeks and rivers.

Habitat Regions: temperate ; tropical ; saltwater or marine

Aquatic Biomes: coastal ; brackish water

Other Habitat Features: estuarine ; intertidal or littoral

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Depth range based on 8 specimens in 1 taxon.
Water temperature and chemistry ranges based on 2 samples.

Environmental ranges
  Depth range (m): 0.5 - 46
  Temperature range (°C): 23.636 - 23.636
  Nitrate (umol/L): 0.325 - 0.325
  Salinity (PPS): 35.785 - 35.785
  Oxygen (ml/l): 4.855 - 4.855
  Phosphate (umol/l): 0.110 - 0.110
  Silicate (umol/l): 0.756 - 0.756

Graphical representation

Depth range (m): 0.5 - 46
 
Note: this information has not been validated. Check this *note*. Your feedback is most welcome.

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Trophic Strategy

Atlantic sea nettles are carnivorous. The diet consists of zooplankton, ctenophores, as well as other jellies. Plankton (microscopic plants and animals drifting in the water) predominate the dietary regimen of the jelly. They tend to also prey upon small crustaceans, comb jellies, and fish eggs and larvae. Nettles also consume young minnows, bay anchovy eggs, worms, and mosquito larvae. Due to the large variety of prey, combined with their highly effective hunting style, C. quinquecirrha seldom goes without something to eat.

Animal Foods: fish; eggs; aquatic or marine worms; aquatic crustaceans; cnidarians; zooplankton

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

  • Ford, M., J. Costello, K. Heidelberg, J. Purcell. 1997. Swimming and feeding by the scyphomedusa Chrysaora quinquecirrha. Marine Biology, 129: 355-362.
  • Purcell, J. 1992. Effects of predation by the scyphomedusan Chrysaora quinquecirrha on zooplankton populations in Chesapeake Bay, USA. Marine Ecology-Progress Series, 87: 65-76.
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Associations

The scyphomedusae blooms of Chrysaora quinquecirrha effect the aquatic ecosystem they inhabit. Because it effects trophic interactions within the food chain and the distribution of nutrients, it is considered a keystone species. Feeding on ctenophores, C. quinquecirrha eliminates the main predator of copepods, thus positively influencing their abundance. Not only does a higher concentration of copepods benefit planktonic populations, it also benefits fish species that prey on plankton. When these gelatinous creatures die, their bodies collect on the underwater sediment and through decomposition contribute to the carbon cycle. Though these bodies contribute to the carbon cycle, they also contribute to the successful increase of bacteria growth.

Ecosystem Impact: keystone species

  • Baird, D., R. Ulanowicz. 1989. The seasonal dynamics of the Chesapeake Bay ecosystem. Ecological Monographs, 59 (4): 329-364.
  • Purcell, J., M. Decker. 2005. Effects of climate on relative predation by scyphomedusae and ctenophores on copepods in Chesapeake Bay during 1987-2000. Limnology and Oceanography, 50 (1): 367-387.
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Very few animals feed on these jellies since they are covered with stinging cells and have toxic venom. Sea turtles (mainly the leatherback turtle, Dermochelys coriacea), are possibly the best known predator of jellyfish and are regularly seen where jellyfish concentrations are high. Other fish, such as ocean sunfish also prey on jellyfish. One of the biggest predators of jellyfish are other jellyfish, mainly of other species.

In some Asian cultures, some fishermen routinely catch jellies to be dried and sold to restaurants. In Asia, jellies are seen as a delicacy.

Known Predators:

  • Houghton, J., T. Doyle, M. Wilson, J. Davenport, G. Hays. 2006. Jellyfish aggregations and leatherback turtle foraging. Ecology, 87 (8): 1967-1972.
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Known predators

Chrysaora quinquecirrha (Sea nettles) is prey of:
Other suspension feeders
Mya arenaria
Crassostrea virginica
Polychaeta
Nereis
meiofauna
Callinectes sapidus
Alosa pseudoharengus
Alosa chrysochloris
Anchoa mitchilli
Brevoortia tyrannus
Alosa sapidissima
Micropogonius undulatus
Trinectes maculatus
Morone americana
Arius felis
Pomatomus saltatrix

Based on studies in:
USA: Maryland, Chesapeake Bay (Estuarine)

This list may not be complete but is based on published studies.
  • Baird D, Ulanowicz RE (1989) The seasonal dynamics of the Chesapeake Bay ecosystem. Ecol Monogr 59:329–364
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Known prey organisms

Chrysaora quinquecirrha (Sea nettles) preys on:
phytoplankton

Based on studies in:
USA: Maryland, Chesapeake Bay (Estuarine)

This list may not be complete but is based on published studies.
  • Baird D, Ulanowicz RE (1989) The seasonal dynamics of the Chesapeake Bay ecosystem. Ecol Monogr 59:329–364
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Life History and Behavior

Behavior

Little information is known about communication in Chrysaora quinquecirrha, though it appears to be a colonial species. Some scyphozoans release and react to chemicals in the water during breeding seasons. Due to limited material on cnidarian nervous systems, how these chemicals are interpreted remains unclear. Scyphozoan nervous systems are usually comprised of a scattered net of cells, while some species display more organized nerve rings. In those species where nerve rings appear to be nonexistent the nerve cells form structures called rhopallia, arranged around the rim of the umbrella. Rhopalliums are typically associated with a pair of sensory pits, a balance organ for orientation, and sometimes pigment-cupped ocelli, or “eye spots.”

Commonly these eye-like structures are found in the medusa stage, even though polyps from all cnidarian classes are defined as light-sensitive. Photoreceptors of jellyfish are classified as the ciliary type, meaning one or more adapted cilia form the photoreceptive structure. Rhabdomeric photoreceptors are found in other invertebrate groups, whereas ciliary types are normally found in vertebrate eyes. Therefore, the photoreceptors of cnidarians may belong to the same evolutionary line as those of vertebrates. Extra ocular photosensitivity is prevalent throughout the cnidarians, with neurons, epithelial cells, and muscle cells facilitating light detection.

Other Communication Modes: pheromones

Perception Channels: polarized light ; tactile ; chemical

  • Barnes, R. 1974. Invertebrate zoology. Philiadelphia: 3d ed. Saunders.
  • Seymour, J., R. Wallèn, K. Nordström, D. Nilsson. 2003. A simple visual system without neurons in jellyfish. Proceedings: Biological Sciences, 270: 2349-2354.
  • Stierwald, M. 2004. On the evolution of cnidarian eyes. University of Basel, PhD Thesis: 1-54.
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Life Cycle

Chrysaora quinquecirrha has two different body forms during its life cycle. The first form is a polypoid stage, where the organism is a small and sessile stalk, generally only millimeters long. Tentacles facilitate feeding. The polyp may either remain sessile, resembling coral and sea anemones, or it may be free-floating. Due to the polyp’s ability to bud asexually, it can either remain solitary or be colonial. Polyp strobilation, or budding, may lead to the appearance of ephyra, which are small, immature jellies.

From ephyra to adult medusa, C. quinquecirrha has six different stages. These stages are categorized by the change in morphological structure. Two stages involve the growth of the ephyra, while the other four stages are for medusa development. The first four stages seen in species growth have been reproduced in the laboratory, while the last two stages have been recorded from nature. Stage I consists of newly-liberated ephyra, from polyps, which average between two to three and a half millimeters wide from lappet-tip to lappet-tip across the tiny medusa. Stage II is characterized by the presence of primary tentacles, and the development of the oral arms. As the medusa enters stage III, the lappets tend to fold under the medusa, thereby reducing its resemblance to its ephyra stage. Stage IV development is noted by the appearance of secondary tentacles between the primary tentacles. Stage V introduces the growth of 16 tertiary tentacles in the medusa. At this point there are 40 tentacles, and 48 lappets. The last stage, stage VI, is when the medusa has grown to a size of seven or more tentacles and eight or more lappets per octant. As previously mentioned, these last two stages have not been successfully reproduced in the lab, but research has shown that tentacle numbers in adult medusa vary, and are not a dependable taxonomic character in this group of Schyphozoa.

Development - Life Cycle: metamorphosis ; colonial growth

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Life Expectancy

The lifespan of this species is unknown.

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Reproduction

What attacts or induces the Atlantic sea nettle to reproduce is known. This species reproduces both sexually and asexually.

Mating System: polygynandrous (promiscuous)

In their polyp form, Chrysaora quinquecirrha reproduces asexually. This is done through a variety of ways: strobilation, cyst production, and by changing polyp position through the use of stolons. Medusae are able to reproduce sexually. Females catch the sperm released into the water from the mouths of the males. The eggs, which are also held in the mouth, become fertilized, and remain attached to the female's oral arms. As the fertilized eggs develop, they grow into planula. These planula have a flattened, bean shape. Once the polyps develop fully into flower-shaped progeny, they are released into the ocean where they settle, and begin asexual reproduction. The polyp buds to produce identical copies of themselves, and eventually detach to be released into the ocean where it will undergo metamorphosis to the medusa stage.

Breeding season: This species breeds during the summer months.

Range time to independence: 15 (low) hours.

Average time to independence: 20 hours.

Key Reproductive Features: seasonal breeding ; gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate); sexual ; asexual ; fertilization (Internal ); broadcast (group) spawning; ovoviviparous

Fertilized eggs will remain attached to the female parent's oral arms. The eggs into planula on the arms. Once the polyps develop fully into flower-shaped progeny, they are released into the ocean where they settle.

Parental Investment: no parental involvement; altricial ; female parental care ; pre-fertilization (Protecting: Female); pre-hatching/birth (Protecting: Female); pre-weaning/fledging (Protecting: Female); pre-independence (Protecting: Female)

  • Cargo, D., G. Rabenold. 1978. Observations on the asexual reproductive activities of the sessile stages of the sea nettle Chrysaora quinquecirrha (Scyphozoa). Estuaries and Coasts, 3: 20-27.
  • Littleford, R. 1939. The life cycle of Dactylometra quinquecirrha, L. agassiz in the Chesapeake Bay. The Biological Bulletin, 77: 368-381.
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Molecular Biology and Genetics

Molecular Biology

Barcode data: Chrysaora quinquecirrha

The following is a representative barcode sequence, the centroid of all available sequences for this species.


No available public DNA sequences.

Download FASTA File
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Statistics of barcoding coverage: Chrysaora quinquecirrha

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLDS) Stats
Public Records: 1
Specimens with Barcodes: 1
Species With Barcodes: 1
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Conservation

Conservation Status

Chrysaora quinquecirrha populations are not under consideration for conservation status.

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

Blooms of Chrysaora quinquecirrha negatively impact humans. Economically, these large masses of jellies deter swimmers, beach goers, and tourists from entering the water. If one comes in physical contact with the Atlantic sea nettle, thousands of stinging nematocysts on tentacles penetrate toxins into the skin, causing a painful rash.

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

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The diet of Chrysaora quinquecirrha has an indect effect on finfish and shellfish populations. By preying on ctenophores, populations of planktonic larvae flourish. These plankton are fed on by shellfish and finfish. Larger populations of the plankton result in larger populations of finfish and shellfish.

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