The Largest Jellyfish in the World

By Josie F. Turner, Journalist specialized in Animal Welfare. Updated: June 8, 2017
The Largest Jellyfish in the World

Did you know that the largest animal in the world is a jellyfish? It is called Cyanea capillata but is commonly known as the lion's mane jellyfish and it is even longer than the blue whale.

The largest known specimen was found in 1870 off the coast of Massachusetts. Its bell averaged 2.3 meters in diameter and its tentacles reached 36.5 meters in length.

This Animal Wised article on the largest jellyfish in the world will give you all the details about this gigantic inhabitant of our seas.

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Their characteristics

Its common name, the lion's mane jellyfish comes from its physical appearance and similarity to a lion's mane. You can find other animals in its mane, such as shrimp, palometas or juvenile prowfish. They are immune to its venom and find it a good source of food and protection from other predators.

This jellyfish has eight clusters in which their tentacles are grouped. It is estimated that its tentacles can measure up to 60 meters long and they have a color pattern ranging from crimson or purple to yellow.

They feed on zooplankton, small fish and even other species of jellyfish that are caught between its tentacles. They inject their paralyzing venom through their stingers. This paralyzing effect facilitates the ingestion of prey.

The Largest Jellyfish in the World - Their characteristics

Their habitat

The lion's mane jellyfish lives mainly in the icy and deep waters of the Antarctic Ocean, extending also to the North Atlantic and the North Sea.

Few sightings have been made because this jellyfish inhabits the area known as the abyss that lies between 3000 and 6000 meters deep. It is very rare for them to approach coastal areas.

The Largest Jellyfish in the World - Their habitat

Behaviour and reproduction

Like all other jellyfish, its movement depends directly on ocean currents. They limit them-self to vertical, and to a much lesser extent, horizontal movement. Because of these limitations in movement, it is impossible for them to chase things, so its tentacles are its only weapon to feed.

In most cases, a lion's mane jellyfish sting is not fatal for people even if it causes severe pain and rashes. In extreme cases, if a person was trapped in its tentacles, the large amount of poison absorbed that would be absorbed though the skin could be fatal.

They breed in summer and autumn. Although they usually breed, they are known to be asexual. This means they can produce both eggs and sperm without the need for a partner. The mortality rate of this species is very high in the first days of life.

The Largest Jellyfish in the World - Behaviour and reproduction

Interesting facts

  • At The Deep Aquarium in Hull, England you can find the only example kept in captivity. It was donated to the aquarium by a fisherman who captured it on the east coast of Yorkshire. The jellyfish is 36 cm in diameter and is also the largest jellyfish kept in captivity.
  • In July 2010, around 150 people suffered stings from the lion's mane jellyfish in Rye, United States. The stings were caused by the remains of a jellyfish washed ashore by the currents.
  • Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was inspired by this jellyfish to write the story The Adventure of the Lion's Mane in his book The Case-Book of Sherlock Holmes.
The Largest Jellyfish in the World - Interesting facts

If you enjoyed this article, you may be interested inTypes of sea turtles and How does mass coral bleaching affect the Great Barrier Reef?

If you want to read similar articles to The Largest Jellyfish in the World, we recommend you visit our Facts about the animal kingdom category.

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