Common jellyfish around South and southern Africa
The following species are those that you are more likely to come across at the coast. Brief diagnostic descriptions are provided here but more detailed descriptions can be found by following the links that better the account below.The species shown here are a fraction of those known, and more information on other species that you might see in the region can be found by following the links at the end. It is hoped that we will be able to expand this list, and update the geographic records, as you send us information.

Cubozoan Jellyfish


Carybdea branchi: Box-jellies, higher than wide, up to 23 cm in height. Generally translucent and bearing a single, opaque tentacle at each lower corner of the bell. Tentacles up to one and one half times as long as maximum bell length. This species is mostly found along the SW coast of South Africa, and is common in Cape Town harbour. Stings are known to be harmful, but not lethal.

www.infovek.sk
Carybdea alata
A more detailed description can be found by clicking the following links:
Chiropsalmus sp: Box-jellies with many opaque tentacles arising from a single tentacle stalk at each lower corner. The bell is generally fist-sized, as high as it is wide, up to 14 cm wide. Umbrella is fairly rigid, transparent and granular. It is a warm water species that is known from anecdotal evidence to occur along the east coast of South and southern Africa. It is potentially fatal.

uk.wikipedia.org
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NOTE: If you saw this species and tick it on the survey form, a warning will be posted on the front page of this web site alerting others to its presence. Please make sure that your identification is correct. Pictures would be very much appreciated.

A more detailed description can be found by clicking following link:
Chirodropus gorilla: Box-jellies with many opaque, pale yellow tentacles arising from a single tentacle stalk at each lower corner. The bell is generally larger than fist-sized, as high as it is wide, up to ~35 cm wide. Umbrella is fairly rigid and transparent, not granular, with a number of brown vertical stripes: velum purple. It is a fairly uncommon, deeper water species that is found along the west coast of southern Africa (particularly Namibia). It may be caught in trawl nets and has been recorded stranded. Although there are no known fatalities resulting from stings of this species (owing to its rarity), it should nevertheless be treated with extreme caution.

Chirodropus gorilla (clockwise from upper left): individual photographed in shallow water off Lüderitz, specimens stranded on the beach in southern Namibia (©Kolette Grobler, MFMR, Lüderitz, Namibia).
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Scyphozoan Jellyfish

Semaeostomeae


Chrysaora fulgida (=hysoscella): Red jellies up to 80 cm in diameter, with four long frilly arms that hang down around the mouth. The umbrella is flatter that a hemisphere, thick, robust and opaque. Young animals are often pink in colour, whilst more mature animals have red/brown "spokes” of colour radiating out from the centre of the exumbrella: oral arms pale, with orange margins when mature. The edge of the umbrella is scalloped, and bears up to 24 red tentacles: the tentacles can break off in their entirety on disturbance, so that often only the eight major ones remain. Reds are mostly confined to the west coast of southern Africa. Stings are known to be harmful, but not lethal.

Chrysaora fulgida (=hysoscella) (clockwise from top left): young specimen in the shallow water off Namibia (©Kolette Grobler, MFMR, Lüderitz, Namibia); a mature specimen washed up on Halifax Beach (©Kolette Grobler, MFMR, Lüderitz, Namibia); another mature specimen (©Kolette Grobler, MFMR, Lüderitz, Namibia).
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Chrysaora fulgida (=hysoscella) specimen taken in the waters off the SW Cape (©Charles Maxwell)
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A more detailed description can be found by clicking the following links:
Chrysaora (Dactylometra) africana: Red jellies up to 30 cm in diameter, with four long frilly arms that hang down around the mouth. The umbrella is flatter that a hemisphere; is opaque and has purple "spokes” of colour radiating out from the centre of the exumbrella in various ways: oral arms pale. The edge of the umbrella is scalloped, purple in colour, and bears up to 40 purple tentacles (that do not readily break off in their entirety). This species is confined to the west coast of southern Africa, and is more common off Namibia. Stings are known to be harmful, but not lethal.

This species could be confused with Chrysaora fulgida (=hysoscella), but it is much less robust (i.e. it is more delicate); the predominant colours are white and purple (NOT pink and rusty brown), and it has 40 (NOT 24 – or more usually 8) purple (NOT red) tentacles.

Chrysaora africana in the surface waters off Namibia (©Simon Elwen, Namibian Dolphin Project).
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Red jellies off Namibia: Chrysaora fulgida (=hysoscella) (single upper figure); Chrysaora africana (four lower figures) (©Conrad Sparks, CPUT).
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Pelagia noctiluca: Fist-size jellyfish, with a translucent, slightly pink bell bearing numerous warts on the outer surface. Four frilly arms hang down around the mouth: not more than three-times as long as the width of the bell. Eight purple tentacles situated equidistantly around the bell margin – as long as the mouth arms. The purple/pink gonads are often clearly visible within the bell as a looped cross. Specimens will give off a blue light when handled or disturbed – hence the specific epithet nocti (night) luca (light). This species is a problem elsewhere in the world (especially in the Mediterranean Sea), where it can have a negative impact on the tourism and mariculture sectors of the economy. This species can inflict a painful sting. Uncommon around South Africa, but recently reported as abundant in False Bay.

Pelagia noctiluca specimens taken (top two) underwater off Millers Point, False Bay (©Charles Maxwell) and (bottom) from above the water surface in False Bay (©Kim Kruyshaar).
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Rhizostomeae


Rhizostoma pulmo: Massive hemispherical jellies (40 – 90 cm in diameter) that lack tentacles at the umbrella margin. Eight stout arms are suspended from the centre of the subumbrella surface, which are as long as the umbrella is wide. The oral arms are distinctly "Y” shaped and terminate in a long club-like appendage, which is ~one third of the arm length. They are robust, opaque and generally white or blue/grey in colour. The scallops at the edge of the umbrella may be an intense blue, purple or brown in colour. This species can be found along the east and south coasts of South Africa.It is harmless.

©Gail Schofield
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Rhizostoma pulmo taken at the Swartkops River mouth (©Mike Figg)
Rhizostoma pulmo
Rhizostoma pulmo taken at Noordhoek (©Bayworld)
Rhizostoma pulmo
A more detailed description can be found by clicking the following links:
Crambionella stuhlmanni: Medium sized jellyfish up to 20 cm in diameter: lacking marginal tentacles. The bell is hemispherical, robust and finely granular: pale in colour and opaque. Animals possess eight oral arms that are about as long as the bell is wide; each terminates in a short triangular club. This species is currently thought to be restricted to estuaries along the East coast of South Africa.It is harmless.

©Scotty Kyle
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A more detailed description can be found by clicking the following link:
Eupilema inexpectata: Bell is a robust hemisphere up to 40 cm in diameter; white and opaque. With eight oral arms that are shorter in length than the bell diameter and which are fused for more than half their length basally: without appendages or filaments. This species has been described and recorded from the SW Cape region only. It is harmless.

LHS: Eupilema inexpectata: general view. Umbrella diameter = 38 cm. RHS: Detail of oral arms with the scapulets at the top; scale bar = 3 cm. (from Pagès et al., 1992: Scientia Marina 56(Supl. 1): 1-64. www.icm.csic.es)
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A more detailed description can be found by clicking the following link:
Catostylus mosaicus: Fairly robust jellyfish, hemispherical in shape and up to 35 cm in diameter. The outer surface of the umbrella is granular, and the edge of the bell is scalloped. It is generally pale and opaque. This jellyfish lacks tentacles but has eight stout oral arms that taper gradually to a point and are as long as the bell is wide; without filaments. This species is known from anecdotal evidence in shallow water and estuaries along the east and SE coast of the region. It is harmless.

Photo by MJ Kingsford taken from: Pitt KA, Kingsford MJ, Rissik D and Koop K (2007). Jellyfish modify the response of planktonic assemblages to nutrient pulses. Marine Ecology Progress Series 351: 1-13
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Catostylus specimens taken in an Eastern Cape estuary (©Caroline Voget)
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Catostylus specimen taken in an Eastern Cape estuary (©Caroline Voget)
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A more detailed description can be found by clicking the following links:

Hydrozoan Jellyfish

Siphonophorae


Physalia physalis: "Portuguese man-of-war" or "blue-bottle". This colony of hydroids floats on the surface of the sea using an air bladder, and is frequently stranded on our beaches. They possess long tentacles that trail below the surface and can be found around South and southern Africa. This species has a painful sting.


www.jaxshells.org
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www.jaxshells.org
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This is a picture we have recently received from one of our members.
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A more detailed description can be found by clicking the following links:

Anthomedusae


Velella velella: "By-the-wind-sailor". This hydroid colony floats on the water surface like the blue-bottle, and the two are frequently stranded together. It is disk-like, up to 6 cm in diameter, and it bears a thin semi-circular fin, which resembles and acts like a sail. The "by-the-wind-sailor” is blue in colour and has short tentacles that trail down in the water. By-the-wind-sailors can be found around South and southern Africa.

www.jaxshells.org
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A more detailed description can be found by clicking the following links:
Porpita porpita: A small, blue floating hydroid. Like the "by-the-wind-sailor” it is disk-like in basic shape: up to 1 cm wide. Unlike the "by-the-wind-sailor", however, Porpita does not have a sail. Not as common as either Valella or Physalia, but usually stranded with both: can be found around South and southern Africa.

www.jaxshells.org
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A more detailed description can be found by clicking the following links:

Leptomedusae


Aequorea forskalea: Jellies possess a saucer-shaped bell with the centre of the bell's jelly being much thicker and thinning towards the margin. Tentacles originate along the bell edge. Jellies are transparent.

©Dr. Andrew Brierley
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Aequorea forskalea specimen taken in the waters off the SW Cape (©Charles Maxwell)
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Comb-Jellyfish (Ctenophores)


Pleurobrachia pileus: This comb jelly has a near spherical shape and can be up to 2.5 cm in polar diameter. It has two long and branching, retractile tentacles that are up to 20 times the maximum body dimension. The transparent body possesses eight longitudinal comb rows. To date, this species is known from shallow water along the west and SW coasts of the region only. It is harmless.

©Marco Faasse (www.marlin.ac.uk )
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A more detailed description can be found by clicking the following links:
Beroe cucumis: These comb jellies are egg-shaped or slightly conical, up to 10 cm in length. They lack tentacles, but the eight comb rows that run the length of the animal are conspicuous.This species is known from shallow water along the west and SW coasts of the region only. It is harmless.

©Erling Svensen
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A more detailed description can be found by clicking the following links: