To understand and appreciate the adaptations of the Lion's Mane jellyfish, you must first learn about its morphology. All Cnidarians are diploblastic which means they have  two primary germ layers: the ectoderm and endoderm.  This includes tissue associated with the gut and associated glands. The ectoderm, on the other hand, gives rise to the epidermis and the nervous tissue.  Also, all Cnidarians (including the Lion's Mane) present radial symmetry.  This allows for animals to reach out in all directions from one center such as during feeding.  Those are some adaptations it shares with its close relatives, lets get into some more unique characteristics of the Lion's Mane. Cyanea capillata have 8 lobes that are very obvious to the naked eye.  Visit the Pictures page to get a better look of the Lion's Mane's lobes.  A few lobes have organs used for sensing things such as odor and balance.  However, a more interesting adaptation they have is a primitive light receptor located at the ends of selected lobes! There is a single primitive opening that serves as the mouth and anus.  When in the medusa stage, the jellyfish adapted to having radial canals to distribute nutrients to their tentacles faster.  Recognize that the image on the right is that of a general jellyfish and some structures are not found in Cyanea capillata  such as the velum.  For a better view of the words and what structure they are referring to just click on the picture!  Cyanea capillata can propel  itself because of special muscles called coronal muscles, embedded on the underside of the bell, which push water out of the hollow bell. As water is pushed in one direction, the jellyfish moves in the counter direction.  The Lion's Mane does not have a brain or eyes so it relies on nerve cells to sense and react to food or danger.  Sensing organs tell them whether they are heading up or down, into the light or away from it.  Even with such a basic structure, they are amazing hunters!  Check out the Nutrition page to see what they eat!



The smaller Lion's Mane jellyfish ranges from a milky white color to a mustard yellow.  This is compared to the larger jellyfish who vary in color from a deep brick red to a dark purple.  The change in coloration is manly due to the depth at which it lives.  Some believe that the certain colors help the jellyfish capture various prey.  You can see more of the Cyanea capillata's beautiful colors on my Pictures page!  If you want to check out another colorful organism, check out Hapalochlaena lunulata (the blue-ringed octopus).




The Lion's Mane jellyfish is known not only for its giant structure but also for its painful stings.  The stinging sensation, more commonly referred to as a burning sensation, when referring to Cyanea capillata, originates in the jellyfish's cnidocyte.  Cnidocytes are found in all Cnidarians and is one of the characteristics that separates Cnidarians from Ctenophores.  Each individual cnidocyte contains a threadlike tube lined with a series of barbed spine called a nematocyst (also known as cnidocyst).  The cnidocyte is activated by a hair-like structure cnidocil sticking out of the nematocyst.  Once triggered it allows water to flow down its concentration gradient into the nematocyst which has an extremely high osmotic pressure.  This high osmotic pressure inside the nematocyst causes the inflow of water to be very forceful thus propelling the nematocyst with great force out of the cnidocyte and into the prey.    Cyanea capillata have three different types of nematocysts, all of which are very similar and are triggered relatively at the same rate.  A Lion's Mane jellyfish can have up to 8 clusters of 150 tentacles, that is approximately 1,200 tentacles per jellyfish.  A Cyanea capillata's tentacle has been recorded of being nearly 200 feet in length.  If these staggering numbers are not scaring you enough, every single one of these enormous tentacles are lined with a ridiculous amount of cnidocytes that are ready to be triggered any time they are touched.  To learn how listening to your parents can help prevent a painful encounter with a Lion's Mane, visit my  Interactions page! 

This image demonstrates the triggering of a nematocyst out of a cnidocyte.


More Venom

Cyanea capillata's venom consist of various toxins such as neurotoxins that paralyze prey immediately. One action of neurotoxins on its prey is the blockage of voltage-gated sodium (Na-v) channels.  The venom in the Lion's Mane also causes hemolysis (breakdown or destruction of red blood cells). This is caused by pore-formation and lipid peroxidation.  Lipid peroxidation  is the process in which free radicals take electrons from the lipids in the cell membranes, this causes a great amount of damage to the cell.  This process is demonstrated on the image to the right of this text.  Studies on scyphozoans in reference to venom composition and toxic effects are rare as of now.  One study has isolated the novel cytotoxic protein (CcTX-1).  This protein is closely related to two cubozoan species, Carybdea alata (CaTX-1) and Carybdea rastonii (CrTX-1).  If you are interested in this venom you should check out the even more intense venom of Enhydrina schistosa (one of the most venomous snakes in the world).



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