Lion's Mane Jellyfish: Habitat & Facts

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 Lion's Mane Jellyfish. This includes its habitat, distribution, and some interesting facts about its life and behaviors.

The Lion's Mane

Have you ever seen a jellyfish when you were swimming or on a boat? Imagine if you did, and that jellyfish was the size of a blue whale! If you were on a boat in the habitat of the Lion's Mane jellyfish, this is completely possible.

Lion's Mane jellyfish is the common name for the species Cyanea capillata. It is named for its tentacles, which are orange or red, and look hairy like the mane of a lion. These jellies are usually dark red or yellow in color, though this can vary widely from purple and pink to even orange tones.

This jellyfish comes in a variety of colors.
Lions Mane jelly

Habitat

Lion's Mane jellies prefer cooler waters, so you won't find them in tropical areas. They mostly live in the Arctic, North Pacific, and North Atlantic oceans. They are particularly common in the oceans off of British Columbia and the waters between Alaska and Washington State.

Jellyfish do not actively swim, so where they live depends somewhat on water currents. However, for the most part you will not find this type of jellyfish close to shore. They are far more common out in the open ocean.

Interesting Facts

Lion's Mane jellies are fascinating creatures. Let's take a look at some interesting facts about their life and behavior.

Descriptive Facts

Like most jellyfish, the Lion's Mane kills its prey using stinging cells in its tentacles, which are called nematocysts. Jellyfish tentacles shoot out little toxic barbs, which snag and kill its prey. Lion's Mane tentacles have a severe sting. In humans, it can cause anything from blisters and irritation to heart failure. This is not a creature you want to touch!

This diagram shows how a nematocyst discharges from a jellyfish tentacle.
Nematocyst

If you end up near a Lion's Mane jelly, the tentacles are pretty hard to avoid. This is the largest jellyfish species in the world. Its bell, the top part where the tentacles attach, can be up to eight feet long and the tentacles themselves more than 100 feet. That's bigger than two school buses laid end to end. In fact, the biggest Lion's Mane jelly was 120 feet long, which is 22 feet longer than the average blue whale!

In addition to being very long, Lion's Mane tentacles are also numerous. The jelly has eight groups of tentacles on its bell, and each group has anywhere from 70 to 150 tentacles. That means a single jellyfish could have as many as 1200 tentacles.

Other Points of Interest

Despite its huge size, the Lion's Mane jellyfish eats very small prey. It mostly eats zooplankton, which are microscopic animals in the water, along with small fish and shrimp, and other jellyfish.

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