Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute:
Comb jellies are beautiful gelatinous animals that live throughout the world’s oceans.
They have ‘combs,’ or rows of cilia which are used to swim. Some have tentacles, some have lobes, some have neither, but all ctenophores have eight comb rows at some point in their life. Ctenophores are hard to figure out from photos — they are usually perceived “backwards” from their natural orientation since the mouth is on the “front”, and does not trail behind like in a typical pulsing jellyfish.
Ctenophores are predators using a variety of strategies, and live from top to bottom. There is even a group of ctenophores that live just above the seafloor. They attach to the tube or stalk of a benthic animal, using a notch in their mouth. Safely secured, they cast out their tentacles behind them in the current to catch small prey floating near the sediment.
Ctenophores are important to understanding the early evolution of animals and how complex forms and systems evolved, since they split off from other animals near the time when multicellular organisms originated. The Biodiversity and Bioptics lab has been studying this fascinating group this week on the R/V Western Flyer and have captured some amazing images of a variety of ctenophores.
T - undescribed lobate ctenophore, closely related to Lampocteis
B - undescribed species, w/ 2 long tentacles, depths of over 3,000 m