Jellies: Living Art

Want to know more about these free-flowing life forms from the deep? Read on to get good answers to frequently asked questions about jellies.



Hunter Museum of American Art

At the nearby Hunter Museum of American Art, Jellies: Living Art will be enhanced and extended by the glass art in the Hunter’s galleries.






Blubber Jellies
Catostylus mosaicus
Size: Up to 12 inches in diameter.
Range: Blubber jellies are found in the coastal waters of north and eastern Australia.
Wild Diet: This species of jelly feed almost exclusively on small zooplankton.


Protection from ultraviolet radiation
Blubber jellies can range in color from tan to bright blue to deep purple. Their coloration is believed to be a form of sunscreen, and it intensifies when they are exposed to sunlight.


Coming to a market near you
When dried and preserved properly, this species is considered a delicacy in many Asian countries. With its numbers increasing in Australian waters, many fishermen have turned to harvesting blubber jellies for sale to foreign markets.



Umbrella Jellies
Eutonina indicans
Size: Up to one inch in diameter.
Range: Pacific coast from Santa Barbara through Bering Sea to Russia and Northern Japan
Wild Diet: Umbrella jellies feed on invertebrate eggs and larvae, small crustaceans and smaller jellies.


Body size affects survival rates
This beautiful, small jelly looks like a miniature umbrella. Its transparent body and small size make it nearly invisible in the ocean.


A unique eating style
The most conspicuous parts of the umbrella jellies body are the four radial canals. The mouth has four frilly lips and extends below the bell margin. When food is snared by this tiny predator, the mouth swings over to "lick" the new meal off the tentacles.


moon jelly

Moon Jellies
Aurelia aurita
Size: Up to 20 inches in diameter.
Range: Moon jellies can be found worldwide, in temperate and tropical waters.
Wild Diet: Moon jellies prefer to eat small zooplankton including mollusks, crustaceans and fish eggs.


Pulsing gracefully in search of prey
Moon jellies drift through the ocean like pale, glowing orbs. Moons are typically translucent white but may take on a pink, purple or orange hue depending on their last meal.


A troublesome traveler
Moon jellies can be found in every ocean on Earth, but no one is really certain about their native waters. Moons and other jellies are often accidentally transported from one region to another in the ballast water of large seafaring ships. Once released, these invasive species compete with native animals and add stress to troubled fisheries.


west coast sea nettle

West Coast Sea Nettle
Chrysaora fuscescens
Size: Up to 15 inches in diameter.
Range: Eastern Pacific, Mexico to British Columbia
Wild Diet: This species feeds on small crustaceans, mollusks, fish eggs and larvae, and other jellies.


An integral part of the oceanic food web
The dusky orange hues of the West Coast sea nettle's bell pulse continuously against the current. Its maroon tentacles and lacy white oral arms trail 12 to 15 feet behind, stinging and collecting a wide variety of zooplankton. Although they are effective predators, their large size and abundance make this species a valuable food source for many marine animals.


A name from mythology
The name Chrysaora comes from Greek mythology and refers to the son of Poseidon and Medusa. Meaning "golden sword," it is a warning of the stinging ability of these jellies.


upside down

Upside-down Jellies
Cassiopeia sp
Size: Up to 12 inches in diameter.
Range: This species can be found in shallow, coastal, tropical waters of the Indo-Pacific and Hawaii, Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico.
Wild Diet: Most of the upside-down jellies food is acquired from symbiotic algae (zooxanthallae) that produce nutrients through photosynthesis.


The buddy system in nature
Unlike most other jellies, this species rests upside down on the sea floor and rarely swims. The brownish hue is the algae that live in the jellies tissues. The algae use sunlight to make food, which they share with their jelly host.


Neighborhood in danger
Upside-down jellies are commonly found basking in mangrove swamps and sea grass beds. These habitats are two of the most threatened habitats on Earth. They are easily damaged by human activities such as coastal development.


sea walnut

Sea Walnut
Mnemiopsis leidyi
Size: Up to five inches long.
Range: Sea walnuts are native to western Atlantic coastal waters, including the Gulf of Mexico. They have been introduced elsewhere.
Wild Diet: Sea walnuts consume small zooplankton including crustaceans, fish eggs and larvae, and occasionally other comb jellies.


Shimmering with all the colors of the rainbow
Sea walnuts belong to a group of animals known as comb jellies. Comb jellies have no stinging cells but instead use sticky mucous to catch their prey. These animals get their name from rows of paddle-like hairs, called combs. Like tiny prisms, these hairs refract visible light into a pulsing rainbow.


Trouble for the Black Sea
In the 1980s comb jellies were accidentally introduced into the Black Sea, most likely via ship ballast water. Without a natural predator, the comb jellies quickly took over their new home and devastated local anchovy fisheries. Despite the introduction of a natural predator, Beroe (another type of comb jelly), which has helped control the invading sea walnuts, the Black Sea fisheries have yet to recover.