Box Jellyfish: Life Cycle, Habitat & Predators

Instructor: Lauren Posey

Lauren has taught intermediate reading in an English Language Institute, and she has her Master's degree in Linguistics.

In this lesson, you will learn about the group of jellyfish known as box jellyfish. This includes information about their habitat, life cycle, and natural predators.

A Deadly Group

Whenever you're near the ocean, whether you are in a boat, on the beach, or swimming in the water, there's a chance you might see a jellyfish. If you happen to be off the coast of Australia, then you might see the deadliest jellyfish in the world--the box jelly.

Box jellyfish is actually the common name given to members of the Cubozoa group, and they aren't all venomous. However, there are several species within this group that have venom in their tentacles that's powerful enough to kill a full-grown human before they even reach shore!

Box jellyfish are pale blue in color, and very transparent, which can make them difficult to see in open water. They are named for their bell, the top part of the jelly, which is shaped like a cube.

Box jellyfish are pale blue and transparent
Box Jellyfish

Habitat

Box jellyfish are found in warm coastal waters around the world. They are most common off the coast of Northern Australia, and in the Indo-Pacific region. The most venomous species are found near Australia. Given Australia's reputation as a home for venomous creatures, that's not really a surprise!

Like most jellyfish, box jellies prefer to stay near the surface, and as a coastal species, they are not common out in the deep ocean.

Life Cycle

The life cycle of a box jellyfish is similar to other species of jellyfish. The adult jellies, called medusas, release eggs and sperm into the water. In some species, the male places a sperm packet inside the bell of the female, and the eggs develop there instead of in the open water.

The fertilized eggs develop into planulae, or jellyfish larvae. In this form they swim around for a few days until they settle onto a hard surface. The surface is usually coral or rocks on the sea floor. Once they attach, the planulae develop into polyps.

As a polyp, the jellyfish can reproduce asexually through a process known as budding. A small clone grows on the polyp and separates. Once in the open water, it develops into the medusa form.

The original polyp will also develop into a medusa. It spends a few months attached to its rock or coral, and eventually detaches. At this point, it grows into the medusa. So, essentally, the box jellyfish life cycle looks like this:

Medusa->fertilized egg->planulae->polyp->medusa

Jellyfish go through several forms during their life cycle
Jellyfish life cycle

Box jellyfish do not have long lives. They may spend less than a year in the medusa form, and only a few months as a polyp. This entire cycle can take place over the course of two years or less.

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