Crystal jelly jellyfish: characteristics, diet and distribution

Crystal jelly jellyfish

The Crystal jelly jellyfish is a fascinating animal, as it possesses a protein that has been widely used in the study of biological processes in human cells. Find out more about this invertebrate!

Crystal jelly jellyfish: characteristics, diet and distribution

Jellyfish are one of the marine animals that cause more curiosity, but among all of them, the Crystal jelly jellyfish stands out. This invertebrate has special characteristics that make it unique, and has even aroused the interest of science. Its scientific name is Aequorea Victoria and it belongs to the Aequoreidae family, which includes more than 25 species.

The common name of this jellyfish comes from its gelatinous and almost transparent appearance, similar to Crystal. This aspect makes it almost imperceptible to humans, especially because it usually lives in deep ocean areas where almost no sunlight reaches it. Read on to learn about its characteristics, diet and distribution in more detail.

Characteristics of the Crystal jelly jellyfish

The Crystal jelly jellyfish, like most of these animals, has a striking appearance. In addition to its transparency, it has hundreds of tentacles of different sizes. Although these appear delicate, they are much more resistant than those of other types of jellyfish. It should be noted that these do not come out of the mouth area, but from the edge of its umbrella. In addition, they are loaded with a venom capable of paralyzing their prey.

However, the characteristic that has made the Aequorea Victoria famous is its bioluminescence, that is, its capacity to produce light naturally. When this jellyfish feels attacked or in danger, it activates through its more than 100 organs the green fluorescent protein – GFP – to scare away its predators.

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Jellyfish have specialized cells, the cnidocytes, which are responsible for ejecting venom from the tentacles after contact with prey.

A Crystal jellyfish on a black background.

This calcium-activated protein was discovered by Japanese scientist Osamu Shimomura and American Roger Y. Tisen. Both professionals won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 2008 thanks to this finding.

According to studies that have compiled the application of this protein in the field of medicine, thanks to this protein it has been possible to investigate biological processes in human cells, related to the propagation of cancer cells and the formation of new neurons.

What stands out most about the use of GFT in humans is its ability to glow without the use of other additives. It is sufficient to irradiate the area with UV light for it to fluoresce. This is a major breakthrough, as it poses no risk of toxicity.

Diet of the Crystal jelly jellyfish

This marine invertebrate achieves such an expansion of its mouth that it can swallow other jellyfish or prey twice its own size. Because of this biological feat, it is capable of consuming other hydromedusae, even if they are not the basis of its diet. It also ingests small organisms, such as plankton and some crustaceans.

When it comes to difficult prey, Aequorea victoria uses its sticky tentacles to inject the toxin that paralyzes them. It then uses the strength of the same structures to pull them into its mouth and swallow them whole. It has no teeth – so it does not chew – because it is in its stomach that enzymes break down the food.

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These jellyfish, in turn, are food for other species such as the sunfish, thus contributing their grain of sand to the balance of the ocean ecosystem. Because they are almost transparent, some animals that feed on them mistake them for plastic bags, which float in the ocean due to pollution.

Although their sting is lethal for their prey, there is no major risk for humans.


Crystal jelly jellyfish are found along the west coast of North America, from central California to Vancouver, near Washington and British Columbia. They live both in the deep ocean and offshore. In fact, due to ocean currents, they can be washed up on beaches, where they may be observed stranded.

Despite having total control of their parts, these invertebrates do not usually swim. They prefer to be carried from one side to the other by the currents, which keep them afloat. Currently, these specimens can be seen on display in some legal aquariums -such as zoos and reserves-.

Crystal jelly jellyfish, a dazzling creature

This is the crystal jelly jellyfish, a dazzling creature. In addition to adorning the oceans with its presence, it can be said that it provides a service for the health of human beings, due to the work of its compounds in the laboratorial field. On the other hand, thanks to the sensitivity they report to water quality, jellyfish have become sentinels of climate change.

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In fact, an article from the Complutense University of Madrid explains that one of the reasons why jellyfish are closer to beaches is the fracture of the temperature and salinity barrier between the open sea and the coast. If we pay attention as a society to these biological parameters, we will be able to detect changes in our environment more quickly.

The Crystal jelly jellyfish is a jellyfish of small size, almost no coloration and a figure almost impossible to discern on the seabed. However, it is striking for its usefulness on various human fronts.