Giant Siphonophore

Praya dubia

Last updated: January 16, 2023
Verified by: AZ Animals Staff
© 1,484 × 1,996 pixels, file size: 3.09 MB, MIME type: image/png – License / Original

The giant siphonophore is longer than the largest sea mammal – the blue whale.

Giant Siphonophore Scientific Classification

Kingdom
Animalia
Phylum
Cnidaria
Class
Hydrozoa
Order
Siphonophorae
Family
Prayidae
Genus
Praya
Scientific Name
Praya dubia

Read our Complete Guide to Classification of Animals.

Giant Siphonophore Conservation Status

Giant Siphonophore Locations

Giant Siphonophore Locations

Giant Siphonophore Facts

Prey
copepods, gelatinous critters, zooplankton, small crustaceans, small fish, and fish larvae
Group Behavior
  • Colony
  • Legion
Fun Fact
The giant siphonophore is longer than the largest sea mammal – the blue whale.
Estimated Population Size
unknown
Biggest Threat
human activity
Most Distinctive Feature
gaseous float, tentacles
Habitat
saltwater, ocean floor as well as the ocean twilight zone
Predators
none
Diet
Carnivore
Type
siphonophore

Giant Siphonophore Physical Characteristics

Color
  • Blue
  • White
Skin Type
Skin
Length
160 feet
Venomous
No

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The giant siphonophore is longer than the largest sea mammal – the blue whale.

Giant Siphonophore Facts

  • Giant siphonophores are bioluminescent. They can shine a bright blue in order to attract prey to themselves.
  • Giant siphonophores are not just one animal, but a group of specialized, individual organisms that work together in a colony. These individual animals wouldn’t be able to survive on their own.
  • At 160 feet in length, giant siphonophores are the second longest sea creature and can grow longer than the blue whale.
  • The giant siphonophore’s body is no bigger than a broomstick.

Giant Siphonophore Summary

The deeper into the ocean water you go, the more likely you’re going to run into an animal that looks less like an animal and more like an alien from your favorite sci-fi movie. The siphonophore is one such animal, with a long rope-like body made up of multiple biological pieces, stinging tentacles, and a gassy floating structure. The giant siphonophore gets confused for jellyfishes all the time. If you happen to see one, don’t touch it. It packs a painful but rarely fatal sting, to humans that is.

Giant Siphonophore Scientific Name

The giant siphonophore is classified as Praya dubia. It belongs to the family Prayidae and order Siphonophorae. The name siphonophore comes from the Greek words siphon which translates to “tube” and pherein which means “to bear.” This is in respect of the shape and appearance of the siphonophore, which is made up of multiple individuals called zooids. The zooid colony is attached to a hollow stalk which looks like a very long tube.

Giant Siphonophore Evolution and History

Giant siphonophores belong to the class Hydrozoa which consists of tiny predatory animals that may exist alone or in colonies and predominantly inhabit saltwater.

The history of the Hydrozoan class goes back over half a billion years ago, 540 million to be exact, during the late Precambrian period.

Siphonophores also belong to the phylum Cnidaria which dates back 640 million years ago.

Siphonophores have no known fossils although studies show that they have amassed a lot of evolutionary modifications spanning a hefty duration of existence.

Giant Siphonophore Appearance

Photos of Siphonophore
The giant siphonophore gets confused for jellyfishes all the time. If you happen to see one, don’t touch it. It packs a painful but rarely fatal sting, to humans that is.

©2,192 × 2,685 pixels, file size: 634 KB, MIME type: image/jpeg – License

The giant siphonophore is not actually a single animal, but rather a group of individual entities called zooids. These zooids are prolifically created through asexual reproduction to form a long chain system called a colony. The colony is attached to a hollow stem which is usually transparent.

Siphonophores come in three basic morphologies: Cystonecta, Physonecta, and Calycophorae. The giant siphonophore adopts the Physonecta body morphology. This means that it has a gas-filled float at the front end of the colony’s stem called a pneumatophore which provides buoyancy. It also possesses a nectosome, a structure which houses the nectophores, the driving force of the colony. The nectophores help the colony move by streaming back jets of water which propel the siphonophore forward.

Appearance and Function

Some of the zooids have specialized functions without which, the colony would not be able to survive. These zooids are located on the siphosome. Some of these zooid functions include capturing prey, circulation of nutrients, excretory systems, locomotion, and defense. Some zooids have a tentacle which is used to sting their prey.

Giant siphonophores are very venomous animals. They have stinging structures called nematocysts on their tentacle branches known as tentilla. These stingers fire paralyzing toxins at their prey and are capable of inflicting great pain.

The giant siphonophore can grow up to a staggering 160 feet in length making it the second longest creature in the deep blue sea. Its incredible body surpasses even the largest sea mammal, the blue whale, in length.

The color of a giant siphonophore can vary depending on where it resides. For example, the greater the depth the animal is found in, the redder it is. It also has the ability to produce a blue bioluminescent light mostly used to attract and capture prey.

Giant siphonophores live in great depths of thousands of feet and they have adapted to living in an environment with an equally great level of pressure. Their skeletons are held together by the pressure which means that they will explode upon being surfaced.

Giant Siphonophore Behavior

Giant siphonophores are symbiotic animals. They are made up of many individual zooids with specialized functions that work together to live and thrive as a unit. Without this symbiosis, the colony would not be able to survive.

These siphonophores are avid swimmers. They ambush their prey using the “sit and wait” method, holding out their tentacles and waiting for the unsuspecting prey to bump into the stingers accidentally.

Giant Siphonophore Diet

Giant siphonophores are carnivorous predators. They feed on copepods, gelatinous critters, zooplankton, small crustaceans, small fish, and fish larvae. The hunting tactics of these creatures usually vary.

Giant siphonophores that live in areas with low food concentration usually employ an ambush tactic wherein they sit and wait for the prey to swim by before subduing it. These animals have stinging organs called nematocysts on branches of their tentacles which are known as tentilla. These branches form a web around the unsuspecting prey and shocks them into paralysis with toxins.

Some siphonophores catch their prey by the use of mimicry. In this method, they use their bioluminescence to lure, stun or confuse the prey and mimic its general swimming behavior before stinging it.

Giant Siphonophore Habitat and Population

Giant siphonophores are located deep in the sea, which might serve as relieving information for avid swimmers. These ocean dwellers can be found anywhere from 2,300 feet to 3,300 feet below sea level.

This jellyfish-like animal has been sighted throughout the waters of the globe, from the South Pacific to the North Atlantic. They live near coasts and their habitats include the ocean floor as well as the ocean twilight zone.

The giant siphonophore is not currently listed on the IUCN Red List of Endangered Species. It is not considered to be a vulnerable species.

Giant Siphonophore Reproduction and Lifespan

Siphonophores reproduce asexually through a budding method. New colonies form by sexual reproduction.

The reproductive methods of all siphonophore species is still in the exploration phase. However, the general consensus is that every zooid in the siphonophore colony came from one externally fertilized egg, so their genetic makeup is identical. A siphonophore comes into existence when one zygote becomes a protozoid. This then begins the budding process and eventually, it creates a new zooid. This activity repeats itself over the course of time until the colony forms around the central stalk.

Siphonophores create the sexual gametes in their colonies by the use of gonophores. The gonophores can either be male or female. Siphonophores with both the male and female gonophores within a single colony are a monoecious species. Those with only one type of gonophore in their colony and another sex in another colony are a dioecious species.

When it comes to asexual reproduction, siphonophores are a collective of multiple zooids, and therefore only one bud initiates the reproductive process within a colony. This bud is the pro-bud and it reproduces by fission.

Because siphonophores are asexual, it is natural that their genetic makeup does not undergo any major changes as generations progress. There is virtually no diversity in the genetics of each new spawn, except mutations occur. The result of these mutations is that it creates unique zooids that have their own particular functions.

The lifespan of the giant siphonophore is not on record.

Giant Siphonophore Predators and Threats

The giant siphonophore does not have natural predators, however fishermen do catch siphonophores by accident. They appear as white gelatinous blobs stuck to the net.

Potential threats these deep sea dwellers could face include habitat disruption due to human activities such as deep-sea mining.

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About the Author

Hi! I am a writer, actor, and filmmaker. Reading is my favorite hobby. Watching old movies and taking short naps are a close second and third. I have been writing since childhood, with a vast collection of handwritten books sealed away in a duffel bag somewhere in my room. I love fiction, especially fantasy and adventure. I recently won the James Currey Prize 2022, so now, naturally, I feel like I own words. When I was 11, I wanted to be a marine biologist because I love animals, particularly dogs, cats, and owls. I also enjoy potatoes and chocolate in all their glorious forms.

Giant Siphonophore FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

How many species of giant siphonophores are there?

The giant siphonophore is just one out of 175 species of siphonophores known.

Can I have a giant siphonophore as a pet?

No. These animals are deep-sea dwellers and require harsh pressure conditions to keep their bodies intact. They burst upon being surfaced, not to mention they are quite venomous with their toxic stinging tentacles.

Are giant siphonophores dangerous?

Giant siphonophores are indeed dangerous animals. This is due to their stinging tentacles and the toxins that they fire when touch. However, their poison is not known to be fatal to humans.

How long do giant siphonophores live for?

The lifespan of the giant siphonophore has not been recorded.

What Kingdom do giant siphonophores belong to?

Giant siphonophores belong to the kingdom, Animalia.

 

 

What phylum do giant siphonophores belong to?

Giant siphonophores belong to the phylum, Cnidaria.

 

 

 

 

 

 

What class do giant siphonophore belong to?

Giant siphonophores belong to the class Hydrozoa.

What order do giant siphonophore belong to?

Giant siphonophores belong to the order, Siphonophorae.

What family do giant siphonophore belong to?

Giant siphonophores belong to the family, Prayidae.

 

 

What genus do giant siphonophore belong to?

Giant siphonophores belong to the genus, Praya.

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