The lion’s mane jellyfish (Cyanea capillata) is a species of jellyfish that delivers quite the sting. It can be found in cooler regions of the Pacific, Atlantic and North Sea region. Most humans have little to fear from this ferocious jelly, but its poison is more than enough to scare away enemies, thus creating a safe space for both the jelly and other species that are lucky enough to be immune to the toxin.
The lion’s mane jellyfish cannot be missed in the open ocean where it prefers to float about. With tentacles up to 190 feet long and a bell diameter of almost 7 feet wide, some individuals even rival in size the blue whale, the largest animal in the world. Most lion’s mane jellyfish live in the Arctic and North Pacific Ocean from Alaska to Washington where the waters are cool. Its long, hair-like tentacles hanging from the underside of its bell-shaped body is the inspiration behind the lion mane’s common name.
The mouth is situated on the bell’s underside, surrounded by tentacles that are divided into eight clusters of up to 150 tentacles each. These tentacles are equipped with nematocysts containing poison that stun prey when they are enveloped. The top of the bell is usually dark yellow or red in color and thick in the center, but thins out towards the edges. The lion’s mane jellyfish also possess bioluminescent abilities, meaning it’s able to produce its own light and glow in the dark underwater.
Scientific research has suggested that jellyfish actually thrive in areas that are affected by human activity. Overfishing, climate change, and pollution have helped promote more frequent jellyfish swarms while reducing the jellies’ main predators and competitors and increasing their prey. These factors have created a favorable environment for this species, and few threats are known to the lion’s mane jellyfish or other jellies.