March 18, 2016
A new sea jelly species is now on display in the Aquarium’s Tropical Pacific gallery. White-spotted jellies (Phyllorhiza punctate), also known as Australian spotted jellies, now inhabit the exhibit that formerly housed lagoon jellies located between the Jewels of the Tropical Pacific and weedy seadragon exhibits. While this species looks very similar to lagoon jellies, the white-spotted jellies on view have smaller spots on their bell and thinner, longer terminal clubs (or appendages) with pigmentation at the tips. In the wild this species can reach a larger maximum size than lagoon jellies.
White-spotted jellies can grow up to 2 feet in diameter. Their light brown color comes from photosynthetic algae called zooxanthellae that live in their tissues. These tiny organisms use the sunlight to produce energy for the jelly.
This species is commonly found swimming near the surface in lagoons, estuaries, and bays. Native to Australia and Southeast Asia, this jelly has become invasive in many other regions of the world, including Southern California, the Caribbean, the Gulf of Mexico, Brazil, and the Mediterranean.
White-spotted jellies most likely traveled from their native region to foreign locations through ballast water or as polyps attached to the hull of ships. Large populations of this jelly can threaten fisheries and ecosystems by eating large numbers of eggs and larvae of fish and crustaceans, clogging fishing nets, and damaging boat intakes…