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Jellyfish: Scyphozoa

Behavior And Reproduction

The most noticeable behavior of jellyfish is rhythmic pulsing of the swimming bell, which moves them through the water. The swimming pulsations are coordinated by nerve centers around the edge of the bell. Medusae can sense light and dark and can determine their orientation in the water. Some jellyfish swim continuously. This feature is important for oxygen exchange, which occurs over the entire body surface, and for feeding. Several species swim against the current. The result is that they all swim in the same direction and may become concentrated in large masses. Some species move up in the water at night and down in the day. The polyps can move using a "foot" and its extensions.

Most jellyfish catch prey by the tentacles and fold the arm inward to bring the prey to the mouth. Many jellyfish do not swim actively while feeding but remain nearly motionless with their tentacles extended above the bell. For some medusae, the pulsations of the swimming bell force water through the tentacles and create whirlpools that bring prey into contact with the tentacles and oral arms.


Because of their beauty and the relaxing effect of their swimming pulsations, jellyfish have been a great success in public aquariums and even as household pets. In Japan jellyfish are kept as pets in special aquariums.

Jellyfish use both asexual and sexual reproduction. Asexual (ay-SEK-shuh-wuhl) means without, while sexual means with the uniting of egg and sperm for the transfer of DNA from two parents. The bottom-dwelling forms of some jellyfish reproduce asexually by budding new polyps from the body or foot. Polyps also produce medusae by another asexual budding process that takes place at a certain time of year and is triggered by environmental factors, such as changes in temperature or light level. During this process the polyp splits in two and forms one to several small medusae. The fully formed medusae break free by swimming pulsations and grow to adults over the course of a month or longer.

The medusae of most species have separate sexes, but in a few species the same animal makes both eggs and sperm. No mating occurs. Sperm strands are released into the water by males and are taken up by females during feeding. In most species the fertilized (FUR-teh-lyzed) eggs, those that have united with sperm, develop into small larvae that swim to a suitable bottom material, attach, and develop into polyps. Some species lack a polyp stage.

Additional topics

Animal Life ResourceJellyfish, Sponges, and Other Simple AnimalsJellyfish: Scyphozoa - Physical Characteristics, Behavior And Reproduction, Jellyfish And People, Sea Nettle (chrysaora Quinquecirrha): Species Accounts - GEOGRAPHIC RANGE, HABITAT, DIET, CONSERVATION STATUS