Lion’s Mane Jellyfish

Cyanea capillata

Last updated: May 27, 2024
Verified by: AZ Animals Staff
© Martin Prochazkacz/

Though it’s a huge animal, the lifespan of the lion’s mane jellyfish is only a year.


Lion’s Mane Jellyfish Scientific Classification

Scientific Name
Cyanea capillata

Read our Complete Guide to Classification of Animals.

Lion’s Mane Jellyfish Conservation Status

Lion’s Mane Jellyfish Locations

Lion’s Mane Jellyfish Locations

Lion’s Mane Jellyfish Facts

Fish, zooplankton, shrimp, other jellyfish
Group Behavior
  • Solitary/School
Fun Fact
Though it’s a huge animal, the lifespan of the lion’s mane jellyfish is only a year.
Estimated Population Size
Possibly millions its IUCN conservation status is unevaluated, but not in danger of extinction
Biggest Threat
Most Distinctive Feature
Its size
Other Name(s)
Giant jellyfish, hair jellyfish, hair jellyfish, mane jellyfish, Arctic red jellyfish, sea nettle, sea blubber, winter jellyfish
Gestation Period
One day
Optimum pH Level
Cooler ocean waters
Seabirds, sea turtles, anemones, ocean sunfish, larger jellies but only when the jellyfish is a juvenile.
Common Name
Lion’s Mane Jellyfish
Number Of Species

Lion’s Mane Jellyfish Physical Characteristics

  • Yellow
  • Red
  • White
  • Orange
  • Purple
One year
200 pounds
As much as 120 feet

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“The Lion’s Mane Jellyfish is the King of the Jellies!”

As the lion is the king of terrestrial beasts, the lion’s mane jellyfish must be the king of the jellies. Named because its orange and gold bell and tentacles remind people of the color and texture of a lion’s mane, this animal can have a bell as much as 7 feet across and tentacles 100 feet long. Yet, it is made up almost entirely of water and has a little lifespan. Read on for more facts about the lion’s mane jellyfish.

Five Incredible Lion’s Mane Jellyfish Facts!

Here are five fascinating facts about the sea blubber:

  • Lion’s mane jellyfish found in the south are considerably smaller than those found in the far north.
  • It can have as many as 1200 tentacles.
  • Though its tentacles are full of stinging cells, many types of marine life hitch a ride on the lion’s mane jelly to be protected from predators and to share the jellyfish’s food.
  • It makes up much of the diet of the leatherback sea turtle, which seems immune to its sting.
  • Tentacles can sting even when they’re at a location far from the jellyfish, so beware.

Lion’s Mane Jellyfish Classification and Scientific name

This jellyfish’s scientific name is Cyanea capillata. Cyanea comes from kuanós, the Greek word for “blue-green.” Others claim it is Latin for a pair of rocky islands. Capillata is Latin for “long hair,” which describes the jellyfish’s very long tentacles. It is the only species in its genus.

Lion’s Mane Jellyfish Appearance

The lion’s mane jelly’s appearance is unmistakable. It can have a bell that’s nearly 7 feet around and trail tentacles that are over 100 feet long. Bearing eight lobes, the bell resembles a pattypan squash. Each lobe bears from 70 to 150 tentacles that are arranged in rows, and there’s a balance organ in the spaces in between them. This is called the rhopalium and lets the jellyfish tell up from down and right from left. There are also organs for odors and light perception. The location of the mouth is in the center of the lobes and contains the animal’s oral arms. These are frilled and full of nematodes, or stinging cells the jellyfish uses to stun its prey.

The bell and the orange arms are an orange or reddish color, much like the mane of a lion. They can also be shades of purple, pink, or violet. Despite all of this, the animal is at least 94 percent water.

Lion’s Mane Jellyfish vs Human: Just How Big Are We Talking?

Though there are photos that show a human being as a mere speck beside a grown lion’s mane jellyfish, the size difference isn’t that drastic. Most jellies have a bell that’s about 0.98 to 2.62 feet in diameter with 6 to 8 foot long tentacles.

A Lion's mane jellyfish (Cyanea capillata) swims next to a kelp forest off the coast of Monterey, California. This giant stinging jelly can grow huge with tentacles reaching over 100 ft long.
A Lion’s mane jellyfish (Cyanea capillata) swims next to a kelp forest off the coast of Monterey, California. This giant stinging jelly can grow huge with tentacles reaching over 100 ft long.

©Ethan Daniels/

Lion’s Mane Jellyfish Distribution, Population and Habitat

The jellyfish are found in the colder parts of the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. Other locations are in the Baltic and the North Sea. Some are found off the coast of Australia. They are rarely found in water deeper than 66 feet.

Lion’s Mane Jellyfish Predators and Prey

Grown lion’s mane jellyfish are too big and venomous for predators to tackle, but the much smaller juveniles are just the thing for sea birds, sea anemones, larger jellyfish, sea turtles, and big fish such as molas. As for their prey, the adult jellyfish eats a great variety of marine animals. These include the nearly microscopic animals that make up the zooplankton, shrimp and other small crustaceans, small fish, and moon jellyfish.

The jellyfish hunts by lowering itself upon its prey then paralyzing it with the stinging cells in its tentacles. How the jellyfish eats after it’s caught its prey is complicated and requires the motion of the tentacles transferring the prey to the jelly’s oral arm which then passes it to the manbrium, which is like an esophagus, then to the stomach. If the prey is too large for the stomach, the jellyfish uses its oral arms to start digesting it.

Lion’s Mane Jellyfish Reproduction and Lifespan

As with all jellyfish, this jellyfish’s reproductive strategy is even more complicated than its digestive strategy. Though some biologists believe the animal is asexual, there are indeed male and female lion’s mane jellyfish as one produces sperm and the other eggs. But its reproduction is both sexual and asexual.

First, the jellyfish ejects sperm and eggs from the mouth. When they are fertilized, they are incubated in the oral tentacles of the female for about a day. This is how long it takes for them to hatch into planula larvae. The female then removes them to a firm surface where they develop further into tiny plantlike creatures called polyps. These polyps reproduce asexually through producing columns of disks called ephyrae. These ephyrae then break out of the columns and grow into medusae, which are basically tiny jellyfish. These medusae grow until they too are ready to reproduce sexually. Though the rule of thumb is that the larger an animal is the longer it lives, the lifespan of this huge jellyfish is about a year or even less.

Lion’s Mane Jellyfish in Fishing and Cooking

Though sea turtles love lion’s mane jellyfish, their stinging nematodes make handling the cnidarian too hazardous for humans.

Lion’s Mane Jellyfish Population

Though biologists don’t have precise numbers of this jellyfish, its population is robust enough to sustain the population of the leatherback turtle. Lion’s mane jellies are just about all the turtle eats. The IUCN hasn’t evaluated the jellyfish, but it is not in danger of extinction.

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Lion’s Mane Jellyfish FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

Where are Lion’s Mane Jellyfish found?

Locations of lion’s mane jellyfish are the colder parts of the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, the Baltic Sea, and the North Sea. They are especially prevalent around the east coast of the United Kingdom and the coasts of Scandinavia

What eats the Lion's Mane Jellyfish?

Juvenile lion’s mane jellyfish are part of the diet of large fish such as molas, seabirds, sea anemones, and especially sea turtles.

How big can a lion's mane jellyfish get?

The largest lion’s mane jelly had a bell that was 7 feet around and tentacles that were 120 feet long.

Is a lion's mane jellyfish poisonous?

The lion’s mane jellyfish is venomous as opposed to poisonous. Poisonous would mean you would get sick if you ate it, but venomous means it delivers toxins through its stinging cells.

What does a lion's mane jellyfish sting feel like?

Interestingly, the sting of this jellyfish isn’t particularly painful at first but feels like you’ve swum into an area of warm soda water. The pain and redness that follow are considered minor, and vinegar can deactivate the stings. However, if a person is stung extensively or experiences terrible pain and swelling, they should seek medical help.

What are the differences between lion's mane jellyfish and blue whales?

While they are both aquatic, there are differences between the lion’s mane jellyfish and the blue whale, with the key ones being appearance and lifespan.

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  1. World Register of Marine Species / Accessed September 28, 2021
  2. National Aquarium / Accessed September 28, 2021
  3. MarineBio / Accessed September 28, 2021
  4. Aquarium of the Pacific / Accessed September 28, 2021
  5. Oceana / Accessed September 28, 2021