This monstrous creature is the Lion’s Mane Jellyfish (Cyanea capillata). The largest known species of jellyfish, with the largest recorded specimen with an up to 2.29m bell and tentacles of 37m long, which washed up on Massachusetts Bay in 1870. Specimens found in lower latitudes are often much smaller than those found in the northern waters.
The Lion’s Mane Jellyfish frequent cold, boreal waters such as those found in the northern Atlantic and the Arctic, as well as the northern Pacific Oceans. Similar unclassified jellyfish have been found in the seas around Australia and New Zealand. Taxonomy for the Cyanea is still under some deliberation between zoologists, some believing that all species in the genus should be grouped together, while other believe a distinction should be made between the red Lion’s mane and the slightly smaller blue jellyfish species found in the eastern North Atlantic.
The bell is divided into eight lobes. The longest, silvery tentacles emanate from the bell’s subumbrella, with an arrangement of colourful shorter arms emerging from the centre of the bell.The long sticky tentacles are arranged in a series of rows, grouped into eight clusters of about 100 tentacles each. These tentacles are primarily used to sting prey, but also have their drawbacks, getting caught on sea anemones, and consequently torn apart and consumed.
While in the open ocean, this jellyfish acts as a floating oasis for some species of shrimp, butterfish, harvestfish, medusafish and juvenile prowfish, offering protection from predators and a reliable source of food.A number of species predate on the jellyfish itself, including seabirds, sea turtles, larger fish and even other jellyfish species. Leatherback sea turtles, for example, feed on them exclusively during summer season in the oceans around Eastern Canada. Lion’s mane jellyfish predominately feed on zooplankton, small fish, moon jellies and ctenophores.
These jellyfish float near the surface, no more than 20m deep, with slow pulsations that drive them forward. They primarily depend on ocean currents when traveling great distances.
Like other jellyfish species, Lion’s Manes have four stages of growth; a larval stage, polyp stage, an ephyrae stage and medusa stage. Through these stages, they are capable of both sexual reproduction (medusa stage) and asexual reproduction (polyp stage). In sexual reproduction, the female carries the fertilised eggs in its tentacles where they hatch into larva. When the larva are old enough, they’re deposited on a hard surface where they grow into polyps. These polyps then reproduce asexually to create small stacks of ephyraes. The individual ephraes break off and eventually grow into the medusa stage, as full-grown jellyfish.