Jellyfish Descriptions

Aurelia aurita

Scyphozoan Jellyfish

Often called the moon jellyfish or figure-eight jellyfish, it is shaped like a moon with a translucent white color. When viewed from above four purple, orange, or pink-shaped lobes in a cloverleaf pattern are seen in the center of the animal. Short tentacles hang down from the entire bell margin. Four frilly oral arms extend beneath the bell and may be pink in color during August or September due to the presence of developing larvae at the edge of the bell. Moon jellies are present in our waters from April to early November, being most common in late summer and early fall. Their sting is mild to no sting.

Chrysaora quinquecirrha

Scyphozoan Jellyfish

This stinging nettle jellyfish has a semi-transparent bell often with small white dots and reddish-brown stripes projecting from the center of the bell resembling the spokes of a wheel. In animals lacking stripes, the bell is more white or opaque. Long tentacles project from the margin of the bell while long oral arms hang down from underneath the bell. Stinging nettles are found in our waters during the summer months and have a painful sting.

Rhopilema verrilli

Scyphozoan Jellyfish

The mushroom jellyfish, so called because its shape resembles a mushroom, has a clear, translucent or creamy white bell with some reddish-brown coloration at the bell margin. It lacks tentacles, but does have oral arms that are subdivided forming finger-like appendages hanging down from the center of the bell. Mushroom jellyfish are found in our waters between July and November and are common in sounds and estuaries. Their sting is mild to no sting.

Stomolophus meleagris

Scyphozoan Jellyfish

Referred to as the cannon ball jellyfish or the cabbage head jellyfish, its rounded ball-shaped bell is white or opaque with a brown ring encircling the edge of the bell. Cannon ball jellies have no tentacles. They do have short oral arms, resembling a stalk, that hang down just below the bell. They are present in our waters from May to November and are seen in sounds. Their sting is mild to no sting.

Cyanea capillata

Scyphozoan Jellyfish

The Lion’s Mane jellyfish has a smooth bell with ragged edges and a mass of long tentacles, resembling the thick mane of a male lion, that extends from underneath the bell. The bell ranges in color from deep red to purple with tentacles appearing white to pinkish-white. This jellyfish is the world’s largest jellyfish, growing up to eight feet in diameter with tentacles extending more than 100 feet. It is common in our waters from October to May and may enter sounds. Their sting in unpleasant.

Photo: Cornell Cooperative Extension's Eelgrass Restoration Program

Chiropsalmus quadrumanus

Cubozoan Jellyfish

The sea wasp is a box-shaped jellyfish with a transparent bell. It is square in cross section and slightly wider than tall. The top of its bell is flat but rounded. Four clusters of long tentacles (pink to pale yellow or colorless) hang down from the bell margin. It is found in our waters from June to November. Their sting is venomous and may be lethal.

Tamoya haplonema

Cubozoan Jellyfish

Also referred to as a sea wasp, this box-shaped jellyfish has an elongate, rigid bell that is transparent and flat on top. Four long tentacles, milky yellow in color, hang down from the bell. It is found in our waters from June to November. Their sting is painful but usually not lethal.

Physalia physalis

Hydrozoan Portuguese-Man-of-War

The Portuguese-man-of-war is not a true jellyfish but a colony of tiny polyps that work together to form an organism. It is distinguished by a gas-filled float, blue to purple in color, with attached stinging tentacles, deep red or purple, that stretch out beneath the float. It is usually seen floating at the water’s surface or washed up on the beach. It is found in our waters during summer and early fall. Their sting is very painful.

About These Jellyfish

Jellyfish can deliver a painful sting even after they are dead, so please observe, but don't touch. Collecting data on jellyfish through a spotter network will help us correlate the effects of the changing environmental conditions on frequency, type, and location of jellyfish. We may even discover species which are not common to the North Carolina coast!

Spotted a Jellyfish? Click here to let us know!

Recent Spottings

Aurelia aurita

GEOMETRYCOLLECTION(POINT(-78.512231 33.880728))

Stomolophus meleagris

GEOMETRYCOLLECTION(POINT(-75.8307777 36.3802879))

Stomolophus meleagris

GEOMETRYCOLLECTION(POINT(-75.7315719 36.1390533))

Chrysaora quinquecirrha

GEOMETRYCOLLECTION(POINT(-4.1426565 50.3754565))

Stomolophus meleagris

GEOMETRYCOLLECTION(POINT(-76.632607 34.6808138))

CAUTION: Do not touch the jellyfish, they can sting even when dead!

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