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Marine Animal Encyclopedia

Mauve Stinger Pelagia noctiluca

The mauve stinger produces bioluminescent light shows, which are often admired from passing boats, but it also has a reputation as a ferocious stinger. As well as having eight stinging tentacles, this jellyfish is covered in tiny red spots that are bundles of stinging cells. The sting is painful but not dangerous. The mauve stinger glows by producing luminous mucus from surface cells when it is knocked or disturbed by waves. Hanging down from the underside of the mushroom-shaped bell are four long, frilly mouth lobes, which are sometimes called oral arms. These also have stinging cells that paralyze and entangle small planktonic animals. Sticky mucus holds the prey, which is then passed up grooves in the arms and into the mouth.

Unlike most jellyfish, the life cycle of the mauve stinger does not involve a fixed stage. Eggs and sperm are shed into the water, where the eggs are fertilized and develop into tiny, oval planula larvae covered in hairlike cilia. The planula larva changes directly into a tiny, lobed, saucer-shaped medusa called an ephyra, which gradually develops into an adult mauve stinger.

Mauve Stingerzoom image
  • Class Scyphozoa
  • Diameter Up to 5 in (13 cm)
  • Depth Near surface
  • Habitat Open water
  • Distribution Northeastern Atlantic, Mediterranean, Indian Ocean, and western and central Pacific
Mauve Stinger habitat mapzoom image