The jellyfish Phyllorhiza punctata belongs to the order Rhizostomeae within the class Scyphozoa. Within the family Mastigiidae we find the genus to which this species belongs, Phyllorhiza, consisting of two other species besides Phyllorhiza punctata. This species is native to the waters of the western Pacific Ocean (from Australia to Japan), but it is frequently observed in many different areas, as it has been accidentally introduced. Specimens of this species have been described from the waters of Hawaii, to the Mediterranean Sea, the Gulf of Mexico, and in the eastern Pacific Ocean (from San Diego to the Gulf of California). They usually inhabit relatively shallow, nearshore waters, where they form large congregations of individuals.
Phyllorhiza punctata has a semi-cylindrical body of approximately 50 cm in diameter (although specimens up to 72 cm have been reported) from which arise 8 oral tentacles with 14 transparent appendages that merge near the bases. The body coloration of this species is translucent, brownish/bluish in color and with a multitude of white spots evenly distributed throughout the bell of the specimen.
Like many scyphozoan species, the life cycle of Phyllorhiza punctata consists of two clearly differentiated stages. The juvenile or polyp stage usually lasts approximately 5 years, and the adult or medusa stage in which they live up to two years. During the jellyfish stage, the sexually mature specimen releases its sperm into the water column so that it reaches a female specimen, enters the female through its mouth and fertilizes her eggs. After fertilization, larvae are formed, which are released and become attached to the marine substrate. There, the polyp or juvenile stage is formed. Once the polyp has settled and developed, it will reproduce asexually by dividing to form a multitude of genetically identical polyps, which will later divide to form jellyfish, thus closing the life cycle of the species.
Phyllorhiza punctata feeds by capturing zooplankton with its tentacles. The tentacles are loaded with stinging cells that have a venom that is tremendously effective against their prey, and fortunately of low intensity and therefore low threat to humans who have accidental contact with any of these specimens.Photos: