An online guide to the Stalked jellyfish (Stauromedusae) found
around the coastal waters of the United Kingdom and Ireland.
Includes notes on their identification, and where and how to find them.

Lucernaria nov. sp. - An unidentified species found off Valentia Island, County Kerry, Ireland. 1896.
Lucernaria nov. sp. - An article relating to an unidentified species of stalked jellyfish found off Valentia Island, County Kerry, Ireland by W. I. Beaumont in 1896 by David Fenwick

The following article refers to a species of unidentified stalked jellyfish that was found by Walter Ibbotson Beaumont in 1896, on dredging Portmagee Entrance Channel for marine biological specimens. W. I. Beaumont's account of this specimen appears in the Proceedings of the Royal Irish Academy Volume V. 1898-1900.

What draws this specimen to my attention, and why I've spent a considerable amount of time in looking into the subject, is that the specimen here is reported as having "an unusually long tube", being found "on slate" and "in about 15 fathoms" (27m) of water. This is quite unusual for stauromedusae, and only one genus, comes to mind for such a specimen.

In the text below, "Port Magee Channel" refers to the body of water between Portmagee and Valentia Island, which lies at the western tip of the Ring of Kerry, Ireland. Bray Head, is the headland at the south-western tip of Valentia Island. "Valencia Harbour" relates to Valentia Harbour, which is found at the north-eastern end of Valentia Island. The name Lucernaria here is not applied in its strictest sense by this author and is therefore not italicized, it is probably unlikely that the specimen discussed here would be placed in the genus Lucernaria. The word Lucernaria is sometimes losely applied as to mean "a stalked jellyfish", but also used in context with the accounts featured, all of which are well over 100 years old.

Original Description

The article "Fauna and Flora of Valencia Harbour, Ireland.
IX. REPORT ON THE LUCERNARIDAE. By W. I. Beaumont, B.A.". Proceedings of the Royal Irish Academy. Third Series. Volume V. 1898-1900. p.811; refers to a Lucernaria nov. sp., and states "A Lucernarian, not apparently referable to any described species, was dredged in about 15 fms., near the entrance of Port Magee Channel. It is a very small form with an unusually long stalk, living attached to the tiny bits of slate laminae, which form a chief constituent of the bottom deposit. A detailed description will shortly be published."



Chart of Valencia Harbour from Proceedings of the Royal Irish Academy. Third Series. Volume V. 1898-1900. p.671 (407Kb).

The area where the specimen was found is further described by W.I. Beaumont in the same report. Part II. The Benthos (Dredging and shore collecting). VII. Report on the Results of Dredging and Shore-collecting. p.761.

"Port Magee Fine Slate Gravel. — Further down the channel, in about 15 fms. (?), the bottom was found to consist chiefly of thin laminae of slate broken up into small fragments not usually exceeding 6 mm. in diameter. Adhering to these was a small but adult Lucernarian, apparently a new species."

Alfred O. Walker, F.L.S., refers to a "Station Three" in an article entitled "MALACOSTRACA FROM THE WEST COAST OF IRELAND". [Read Dec. 10th, 1897.]. PROCEEDINGS AND TRANSACTIONS OF THE LIVERPOOL BIOLOGICAL SOCIETY. VOL. XII, SESSION 1897-98. p.159.

Stations are described on p.163. The text refers to a -

"St.3 - Port Magee entrance E. of Bray Head, 15 f., 24.08.1896".

This is the only reference in Walker's account to a Port Magee dredging site at the same depth of water as the Lucernaria specimen. If Beaumont's lists and accounts are compared with Walker's; then Station Three is the site of the Lucernaria nov. sp.. Pseudocuma longicornis and Crangon neglectus are solely reported as from Station Three (Walker) and the same species are solely reported as being found in Fine Slate Gravel; 15 fms. ca. Port Magee. (Beaumont). Ref: VII. Report on the Results of Dredging and Shore-collecting. By W. I. Beaumont, B.A.. Proceedings of the Royal Irish Academy. Third Series. Volume V. 1898-1900. p.761.

I have decided to write an article on this particular specimen as it remains unclear as to what this specimen may be. It appears to be quite an important specimen historically, and especially for Ireland. If only a more fuller description, or the preserved specimen, to which this article relates can be found.

To understand the importance of this specimen it is necessary to understand the historical context of the record. Here I could summarize and report on the details of the Valentia Harbour study, but I am compelled to use an account by Edward T. Browne, who has already summarizes the background information so well in the "Proceedings of the Royal Irish Academy" as part of the Valentia Harbour study. Edward T. Browne is also known for a paper that featured in the Quarterly Journal of Microscopical Science in 1895, entitled "On the Variation of Haliclystus octoradiatus", s2-38:1-8. (external link, PDF file).


Article by Edward T. Browne.

In the spring of 1895, Mr. W. I. Beaumont, Mr. F. W. Gamble, and I agreed to form a party for investigating those groups of animals in which we were particularly interested, and it so happened that these groups —Medusae, Turbellaria, Nemertea, and Nudibranchiata had received very little attention from previous workers on the west coast.

On the strong recommendation of Prof. A. C. Haddon we decided to make Valencia Harbour our headquarters, as that locality appeared to be the most suitable for our requirements—a well sheltered harbour with dredging grounds and a good tide from the ocean. We arrived there at the beginning of April, and were so fortunate as to obtain the use of an empty house close to the shore. This we converted into a temporary laboratory for two months.

The successful results of this visit led us to organize another expedition to the same place for the summer of 1896. The Royal Society gave us a grant for the hire of a trawler for exploring the ground outside the harbour; and the trustees of the Fishermen's Hall at Valencia kindly allowed us the use of the building. This large hall was most suitable for our requirements, possessing many windows and an ample supply of large tables. Two anterooms were also available, one we used for sorting over and keeping in dishes the material collected, and the other for photographic purposes.

On this occasion the party consisted of six naturalists, the new members being Prof. F. E. Weiss, Mr. A. O. Walker, and Mr. M. D. Hill. It was necessary to organize more definitely our work and duties. Mr. Gamble took charge of the dredging operations, and his colleagues were Mr. Beaumont and Mr. Hill. Prof. Weiss devoted his attention to the collecting of marine algae, and Mr. Walker dredged specially for Crustacea. The whole of the tow-netting, as on the first visit, fell to my share.

During our visits we enjoyed the kind hospitality of the Knight of Kerry and Lady Fitz Gerald. The Rev. A. Delap and Mrs. Delap gave us all a hearty welcome, and a great part of our success is due to their advice and kindness. The Misses Delap, who had for some years taken a great interest in the marine fauna of the harbour, gave us invaluable assistance, and their work is recorded in most of the reports.

To all who so kindly received us and made our visits so pleasant, and to those who helped us in our

work, we desire to express our sincere thanks.
—E. T. Browne.

Ref: Flora and Fauna of Valencia Harbour, Ireland. By E. T. Browne. Proceedings of the Royal Irish Academy Volume V. 1898-1900. p.668.

We can therefore conclude that we have a gathering of people, who are experts of their time, involved in an important late 19th century survey. It was also important in the context of this article, for at least three members of the party, E. T. Browne, W. I. Beaumont and Mr. Gamble, had a high level of experience with what were then called the lucernaridae; what we now know as stauromedusae.

As stated at the beginning of this article, what draws this specimen to my attention is that it is reported as having "an unusually long tube", being "on slate" and in about 15 fathoms (27m) of water. Only three of the ten species of stauromedusae found in the UK are known to attach to rock, these species include Depastrum cyathiforme, Lucernaria bathyphila and Stylocoronella variabilis.

Depastrum cyathiforme (M. Sars, 1846) can be excluded, as it is a species that both W. I. Beaumont and Mr. Gamble were extremely familiar with. Beaumont and Gamble found and collected many specimens of this species during 1892/3 at Port Erin, Isle of Man, and described the species there as fairly abundant, though apparently local in its distribution. Indeed, it is reported the Marine Biological Station at Port Erin, Isle of Man, sold specimens of Depastrum cyathiforme for 9d. each, three for 2/-, in January 1899; by comparison, specimens of Aurelia aurita were 1/- to 1/6 each. Ref: The Fifth Report upon the Fauna of Liverpool Bay and the Neighbouring Seas. 1900.

Lucernaria bathyphila Haeckel, 1880; can be excluded, in that the species is a deep water species and would be a considerable distance outside its known distribution range. The species was first discovered in 1880, in 540 fathoms of water between the Faroe Islands and Shetland Islands in the Northern Atlantic. This was confirmed by the SERPENT Project (external link), between 2007-9, when two specimens were found in just over 1000 m of water between the Faroe Islands and Shetland Islands.

This leaves the possibility that the Lucernaria nov. sp. reported from Port Magee Channel is a member of the genus Stylocoronella. However, the evidence is only very thin and opinion can only be based on the reported length of stalk, and the the ease of which other rock attaching species can be excluded.

Stylocoronella variabilis Salvini-Plawen 1987 is the only member of this genus that has so far been described from the UK, and in relative terms is fairly recent discovery, it has only been found off Plymouth, Devon; on rock, in between 9 and 22m of water. Ref: von Salvini-Plawen, L. (1987). Mesopsammic Cnidaria from Plymouth (with systematic notes). Journal of the Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom. 67(3), 623-637. N.B. An image of Stylocoronella reidli is used here to illustrate the genus Stylocoronella, and in the absence of an image of our native Stylocoronella variabilis. Thanks go to Anne Frijsinger & Mat Vestjens for allowing the use of the image. The image is © Anne Frijsinger & Mat Vestjens, 2005 of Natuurlijk Mooi (external link).

It is difficult to draw any conclusions here at all, without more information, but we can certainly rule out all stauromedusae that attach to rocks, with the exception of Stylocoronella. Algae attaching species of stauromedusae can largely be excluded here because most were well known to the authors, and many were reported as being found during the study at Valencia Harbour on Zostera Beds; which were found to occur in Beginnis Bay, along the eastern margin of Beginnis Spit to the south of Church Island, west of the Foot near Knightstown, and at Reenglass.

It may be that new information will one day come to light that will help shed more light on this account and allow us to identify the species reported by Beaumont, or at the very least allow us to provide a more accurate assessment as to what the species is. The best we could hope for, is for another specimen to be found that agrees with the historical account. Should the species be discovered again, hopefully it will be better described, photographed and DNA tested.

The question remains. Did W. I. Beaumont produce a detailed description of Lucernaria nov. sp. Port Magee Channel? Or was it left to E . T. Browne to produce, who had a similar interest? If a more detailed description was published, where was it published? Given its known importance, "not apparently referable to any described species", was the specimen photographed? E. T. Browne was quite clear in his account that one of the two rooms of the temporary marine laboratory was dedicated to photography.

Beaumont describing the specimen as a new species does not surprise me, especially if one assumes the specimen was also seen by Browne, Gamble and three other members of the party, he probably could not have had better advice at the time.

Please e-mail if you know of a description, plate or photograph that corresponds with this specimen.

I'd also be grateful for any digital photos that may be used to illustrate the landscape of the area, particularly of the places mentioned in the text. E-mail.

Thank you.

David Fenwick

Credit to the Biodiversity Heritage Library (external link) for making this account possible.

Lucernaria Portmagee Valentia Harbour Stauromedusae Ireland UK