In classifying different species of jellyfish, twentieth century taxonomists tended to classify any flat, whitish medusa with four horseshoe-shaped gonads as Aurelia aurita. Many morphological differences have thus been ignored, and false conclusions about species such as Aurelia labiata have been made. Rigorous research by Lisa-Ann Gershwin on the anatomical species has resurrected Aurelia labiata as a species unique from its close relatives. For decades the individuality of the species was ignored.
Little is known about communication between moon jellies. They are relatively primitive animals, so it is likely that if communication between individuals exists at all, it is in a very simple form. Research in this area is lacking.
Moon jellies exist in large numbers, with stable populations year round.
US Federal List: no special status
CITES: no special status
Male and female medusa spawn into the sea where the eggs are fertilized. The fertilized egg is called a planula, a cilliated organism that is elliptical and elongated. The planulae are brooded on the manubrium of Aurelia labiata. They are shaken off and attach to a substrate, usually hanging upside-down from the underside of docks, mussel shells, or rocks. There they transform into a polyp 2-3 mm in height, with an oral disk 1-2 mm in diameter. Polyps range in color from whitish to pale pink and orange. Polyps attached to a substrate asexually reproduce by side budding, stolon budding, or podocyst formation.
Eventually the polyp strobilates, meaning that it transforms into a stack of several organisms. In moon jellies, the strobila are both monodisk (produced one at a time) and polydisk (several disks produced), with more than 20 developing ephyrae (free-swimming, immature medusae). Their color varies with location (cinnamon in Southern California and tan in Monterey). The strobilation time lasts for about 7 days, and the ephyrae are released. Typical ephyrae are 2-3 mm when released, with 8 marginal arms and nematocysts (stinging cells) on the exumbrellar surface. The ephyrae swim about until they develop into mature medusa form.
Development - Life Cycle: metamorphosis
There is concern, but no causal evidence as of yet, that the blooming populations of moon jellies will dominate consumption of zooplankton food resources and outcompete commercial fish that also depend on the resource. Further studies will be necessary to determine if this concern is valid.
Aurelia labiata adapt readily to an aquarium environment and can thrive at a variety of temperatures. In addition, their translucent coloring, moon-shaped bell, and pulsating method of swim make them very beautiful. It is relatively easy to establish polyps and breed the jellies in captivity. For these reasons, moon jellies are some of the most displayed jellyfish at public aquariums. Distributors of jellyfish have opened a new market among consumers who want moon jelly tanks in their homes. Aurelia labiata is emerging as an important commodity in the pet trade, and serves as an attraction at aquariums worldwide.
Positive Impacts: pet trade
Aurelia labiata is an important consumer of marine zooplankton. They overlap spacially and temporally with important commercial fish, such as the walleye pollock in the Prince William Sound. They potentially compete with these fish species, which also feed on marine zooplankton. Studies have yet to prove that large jellyfish, especially A. labiata, significantly threaten the livelihood of zooplanktivorous fish, but they have shown that their diets and habitats overlap. This could lead to competition for resources.
Aurelia labiata feeds on small zooplankton such as molluscs, crustaceans, fish eggs, and other small jellies. In a gut sampling study, moon jellies primarily selected for crustacean prey. Thorough research on the specific dietary habits is missing from scientific discourse, but the close relative species Aurelia aurita has a diet of plankton organisms as well. Aurelia aurita has a diet dominated by whatever prey type is abundant, adjusting to the availability of given food types.
The plankton is caught on the mucus lining the bell of the jelly. It is moved by ciliary action to the bell margin, where the short fringe of tentacles helps funnel the food into the manubrium and the four horseshoe-shaped stomach pouches at the top center of the bell.
Animal Foods: eggs; mollusks; aquatic crustaceans; cnidarians; zooplankton
Plant Foods: phytoplankton
Primary Diet: carnivore (Eats non-insect arthropods); planktivore
Moon jellies inhabit the coastal regions of the Pacific Ocean from San Diego, California, to Prince William Sound, Alaska. Though Aurelia labiata has been identified solely in this Eastern region of the Pacific Ocean, its close relative A. aurita is a cosmopolitan species that is ecountered in coastal waters around the world. Confusion in identifying the two species may distort the true range of the moon jellies.
Biogeographic Regions: nearctic
Moon jellies float near the surface in warm nearshore waters and are especially prevalent in bays and harbors, such as the Monterey Bay. Though common in coastal regions, moon jellies have been referred to as pelagic, or living in the open waters of the ocean. An extremely close relative to A. labiata, A. aurita can survive in waters ranging from -6 to 31 degrees Celsius. It is very likely that A. labiata tolerates similar temperature ranges.
Range depth: 0 to 1000 m.
Habitat Regions: temperate ; saltwater or marine
Aquatic Biomes: pelagic ; coastal
Aurelia labiata polyps usually strobilate early in spring, and the medusae mature very quickly, spawn, and die by midsummer or early fall. In certain places, the medusae population is present year-round.
Status: wild: 1 (high) years.
The translucent, moonlike bell that is characteristic of Aurelia labiata has earned moon jellies their common name. They do not have the long trailing tentacles that people usually associate with jellyfish. Instead, they have a fine fringe lining the bell margin. The body form of A. labiata is distinguished from close relatives in the genus Aurelia by an enlarged, fleshy manubrium, four oral arms protruding from the base of the manubrium, planulae (ciliated fertilized egg) brooding on the manubrium, and secondary scalloping of the bell margin between rhopalia, forming 16 notches. Aurelia labiata ranges from 100 mm to 450 mm. Bells of juveniles and young adults are translucent, and with maturity they turn milky white, sometimes with a pink, purple, peach, or blue tint.
Aurelia labiata can easily be divided into three geographical morphotypes. The southernmost form, found in California from San Diego to Marina del Ray, has a manubrium that is a wide, rounded frill. The radial canals range in number, depending on age. The oral arms are typically straight. Planulae range in color from white to bright orange, and the bells are colorless to milky white. Male gonads are dark purple, and female gonads are pale pink. Southern moon jellies grow to a maximum of 35 cm.
The central form inhabits coastal waters from Santa Barbara, California, to Newport, Oregon. Abundant in late summer, central moon jellies have an elongated manubrium that is rectangular and tapering. The radial canals are very numerous, and the oral arms are straight or bent counter-clockwise. The planulae are lavender, and medusae found in Monterey, California, are usually purple, while those found in Santa Barbara are often pale pink. Male gonads are dark purple, and female gonads are brown. Individuals of the central form of A. labiata have been recorded as high as 45 cm.
The northernmost form, ranging from Puget Sound, Washington, to Prince William Sound, Alaska, have a pyramidal manubrium. The many parallel radial canals of adults give the bell a lacy appearance. The oral arms are generally straight, and the planulae are found in variable colors. The bells are peach or whitish, male gonads are dark purple, and female gonads pale brown. Northern moon jellies range in size from 14-29 cm.
Range length: 100 to 450 mm.
Other Physical Features: ectothermic ; heterothermic ; radial symmetry ; venomous
Sexual Dimorphism: sexes alike; sexes colored or patterned differently
The moon jelly has stinging cells called nematocysts with which it can sting potential predators. The sting is mild and does not harm humans. Birds, turtles, and Cyanea capillata are cited as predators of moon jellies.
Moon jellies reproduce using internal fertilization. The gonads are one of the most recognizable characteristics of the animal. They are horseshoe shaped organs with deep coloration that can be seen in the center of the bell. In the mating season, males are seen with sperm filaments attached to their oral arms. Sperm is carried to the gastric pouch of the female by cilliary currents. Females hold the fertilized eggs, which appear as grey clumps, on the manubrium.
Only recently has Aurelia labiata been redefined as a species unique to its close relative Aurelia aurita, the saucer jelly. Information on reproductive behavior or A. labiata is not available at this time. Aurelia aurita is known to reach sexual maturity in the spring and summer. In these seasons much of the organism's energy is devoted to repoduction. As the jellies live in close aggregations, complex mating rituals do not exist, males simply release their sperm filaments during the period of sexual maturity, which are carried to the female gonads by ciliary currents.
Key Reproductive Features: seasonal breeding ; sexual ; fertilization (Internal )
The zygotes of Aurelia labiata, called planulae, are brooded on the jelly's manubrium. In the Southern form, this takes place in a reticulating pattern on the frills. In the central form, the planulae are brooded in tear-drop shape clumps on the base or shelves of the manubrium. Northernmost moon jellies brood planulae at the base or shelves of the manubrium as well. Planulae are eventually shaken off and continue their development after attaching to a substrate.
Parental Investment: no parental involvement; pre-fertilization (Provisioning); pre-hatching/birth (Provisioning: Female, Protecting: Female)
Aurelia labiata is a species of moon jellyfish. It is a cnidarian in the family Ulmaridae. It is typically larger than Aurelia aurita, with individuals document up to 45cm. However much of its size range overlaps with A. aurita (up to 40cm), making size an imperfect diagnostic tool. Most Aurelia labiata have a 16-scalloped bell, meaning the bell indents inward at 16 points, a characteristic that also appears in other Aurelia species. Aurelia labiata occurs in the northeastern Pacific Ocean, from the Northern coast of California, north to Canada and into Alaska.
The Aurelia labiata have adaptive behaviors that include directional and vertical swimming. Directional swimming helps them escape from predators, approach to a food source, and swim through turbulence. Vertical swimming allows them to avoid rocky walls and low salinity. These behaviors come from their sensory receptors and nervous system that allows better mobility for their survival.
Aurelia labiata are fed upon by other cnidarians such as Phacellophora camtschatica and Cyanea capillata. Like many jellyfish, they are also consumed by sea turtles which are immune to their stings.
Aurelia labiata is a species of moon jellyfish. It is a cnidarian in the family Ulmaridae. It is typically larger than Aurelia aurita, with individuals document up to 45cm. However much of its size range overlaps with A. aurita (up to 40cm), making size an imperfect diagnostic tool. Most Aurelia labiata have a 16-scalloped bell, meaning the bell indents inward at 16 points, a characteristic that also appears in other Aurelia species. Aurelia labiata occurs in the northeastern Pacific Ocean, from the Northern coast of California, north to Canada and into Alaska.Moon Jelly at Monterey Bay Aquarium, California USA