Biodiversity Spotlight: October 2021


Ghost Jelly (Cyanea nozakii)

Contributed by Lauren Bradley (University of Florida Student and 2021 iDigBio Summer Intern)

Happy October! Halloween will be here sooner than we think. I love Halloween, but every year I have all these great ideas for costumes that end up either not happening or thrown together last minute because I procrastinate the whole month and then freak out when it’s October 29th and I haven’t started piecing together my costume yet. So, it is safe to say I’m very jealous of Cyanea nozakii, the ghost jelly, they never have to worry about Halloween costumes, because they already look like ghosts!

Photo Credit: ryanyuewahchan via iNaturalist 

Ghost jellies are found near the Pacific coasts of China and Japan. They can grow up to 20 inches in diameter with tentacles up to 33 feet long, and can live for thousands of years!

Mass aggregations, also referred to as blooms, of ghost jellies are becoming increasingly common and are linked to increased water pollution, overfishing, and oxygen depletion because these conditions favor the polyp stage of the ghost jelly’s life cycle. These ghost jelly blooms also outcompete other species, such as the edible jellyfish (Rhopilema esculentum), adversely affecting their population.

Photo Credit: josylai via iNaturalist

Although ghost jelly blooms are both indicative of and a factor in poor ecosystem health, ghost jellies do have their merits. Their tentacles provide protection for many species of fish in their juvenile stage, such as the razorbelly scad (Alepes klenii) and the Malabar trevally (Carangoides malabaricus). Ghost jellies also host the stalked barnacle (Alepas pacifica). These translucent barnacles will grow on the edge of a ghost jelly’s bell and get food from the nutrient-rich surface waters where ghost jellies tend to float. Ghost jellies may soon provide an important use for humans as well. There is new research showing that a certain collagen compound found in ghost jellies has immune-enhancing properties!

Photo Credit: josylai via iNaturalist

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