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Commonly Asked Questions

Appears in Georgia Aquarium's:
  • Jelly Alley (Tropical Diver)

Range / Habitat

  • Occurs worldwide in temperate seas.
  • Found in surface waters, often over reefs and along the coast.

Physical Characteristics

  • Translucent and whitish in color, often shaded with pink or blue.
  • Main parts include a shallow bell-shaped dome or disk that can reach 2 feet (61 cm) in diameter, with numerous short, fine, fringe-like tentacles around the margin. 
  • In open water, extends tentacles that hang down like a veil. The four white, horseshoe-shaped structures that can be seen through its translucent dome are reproductive organs. 
  • Four oral arms hang down from the center of the bottom surface of the dome. These arms are not always obvious.

Diet / Feeding

  • Diet consists primarily of zooplankton, including small shrimps, fish eggs and larvae. 
  • Collects food on the upper and lower surfaces of the dome where cilia carry it, entrapped in mucus, to the margin. Food collects in small pockets, where it is removed by the tips of four long arms that then transfer the food to the gastrovasculuar cavity located in the middle of the underside of the dome.

Reproduction / Growth

  • Eggs are fertilized internally in female by sperm released by male into nearby water.
  • Moon jelly has a three stage life cycle: polyp, ephyrae and medusa.  
  • Embryos develop on special grooves in the adult female’s arms. Young are released into water as free-swimming larvae.
  • Polyps are formed once the free-swimming larvae settle.
  • When the polyps undergo an environmental change they bud off ephyrae. The ephyrae will feed off of plankton until it reaches adult size, which is known as the medusa. 

Conservation Status

  • “Not Evaluated” on the IUCN Red List.

Additional Information

  • Commonly seen washed up on beaches.
  • Principal food for leatherback and several other species of sea turtles, as well as other marine creatures (including other jellies).
  • Many marine animals die every year ingesting floating plastic bags, mistaking them for moon or other jellies. 
  • Despite not having eyes to see, or a brain to think, a jelly has adaptations that allow it to orient itself within the water column.
    • For example, a jelly has rhopalia, which are small sensory structures. In the moon jelly, they lie in marginal indentations all around the bell.
    • It also has specialized light-sensing structures called ocelli.
    • Utilizes statoliths (tiny internal granules) to perceive gravity.


Seashore Animals of the Southeast. Ruppert, E. E. and Fox, R. S. pgs. 29-30.
Reef Creature Identification: Florida, Caribbean, Bahamas. Humann, P. and Deloach, N., pg. 84.
Guide to Marine Invertebrates, Alaska to Baja California. Gotshall, D. W., pg. 24.
Southeastern and Caribbean Seashores. Kaplan, E. H., pg. 207.