Haliclystus auricula

Stauromedusae UK - 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.

Species Account for Haliclystus auricula s.s. - Kaleidoscope jellyfish*
Haliclystus auricula (Rathke, 1806) - Kaleidoscope jellyfish*

This species has been reported from the Orkney Islands as of 11.04.14. This species is likely to be seasonal so it may be present at other sites across the UK. Please keep an eye out for it. We presently do not know the distribution of this species, it may occur with Haliclystus octoradiatus so care is needed to separate both species. Please read the information below.


The species is likely to be present in much lower numbers and at fewer sites across the UK than current records report and because of confusion surrounding the status of the species.

More images are required here to display the variation that
exists within this species. Please e-mail if you can help.

WoRMS taxon details for -
Haliclystus auricula (Rathke, 1806) - External Link

* Haliclystus auricula was in 2010 given the name ‘’Kaleidoscope jellyfish’’ in a national newspaper competition run in conjunction by the Guardian newspaper and Natural England. This species is known as the Eared stalked jellyfish in North America.

Brief Description

- Calyx, funnel-shaped, variable in colour.
- Calyx and stalk (peduncle) of roughly equal length.
- Anchors (Primary tentacles), coffee bean-shaped, longer than wide.
- Usually 100 or more, but as few as 30 secondary tentacles in tentacle cluster at tip of each arm.
- 30-200 gonadal sacs in each gonad.
- Lacking white nematocyst clusters.

Most notable field characteristics -

Coffee bean-shaped anchors, white nematocysts are absent in this species. Much confusion exists with Haliclystus octoradiatus, which appears far more common.

Description above based on information contained within the following paper -Haliclystus californiensis, a “new” species of stauromedusa (Cnidaria: Staurozoa) from the northeast Pacific, with a key to the species of Haliclystus by AMANDA S. KAHN, GEORGE I. MATSUMOTO, YAYOI M. HIRANO & ALLEN G. COLLINS.

Y.M. Hirano, in "A review of a supposedly circumboreal species of stauromedusa, Haliclystus auricula (Rathke, 1806)", 1997; refers to Haliclystus auricula (Rathke, 1806) as being four distinct species, two Atlantic and two Pacific, and proposes the resurrection of Haliclystus octoradiatus (Lamarck, 1816) as a distinct species. This is important in terms of the UK for Haliclystus octoradiatus was once determined to be a distinct species some 150 or so years ago.

Within the Hirano's paper, Haliclystus auricula (Rathke, 1806) is referred to as Type One, with Haliclystus octoradiatus (Lamarck, 1816), Type Two. The study, rather importantly, reported the differences in distribution of populations of the two species where they occur together, which is reported as ''in the North Atlantic, but only in northern Europe and Iceland''.

Y.M. Hirano states:
"As a rule, not more than one type was found at each location studied, but a few exceptions were noticed in the N. Atlantic with regard to Types 1 and 2. In the sample from Reikjavik, Iceland, one specimen assigned to Type 2 was found among 55 specimens of Type 1, and at Grindavik, also Iceland, three specimens of Type 2 were collected among numerous specimens of Type 1. On the other hand, Type 2 specimens dominated in Denmark, accounting for 141 out of 144 specimens from Frederikshavn, and 10 out of 14 from Strandby near Frederikshavn."

The reporting of the proportions of both types here is highly significant in terms of understanding the status and distibution of Haliclystus auricula and Haliclystus octoradiatus in the UK. There is only limited data at the current time, but it appears that Haliclystus octoradiatus is the most predominant species in Cornwall. "Of hundreds of Haliclystus studied in Cornwall, not one has been Haliclystus auricula. Haliclystus octoradiatus has been recorded at other locations around the UK, but Haliclystus auricula s.s. has only been confirmed from one site, in the Orkney Islands, both Haliclystus auricula and Haliclystus octoradiatus are present at that site. It would be unwise to comment any further on the status of Haliclystus auricula in the UK as it would be conjecture, but it's impossible to determine the species involved in most if not all 20th Century records from the UK." (Fenwick. February 2014).

Historical literature cannot always be relied upon, the "Plymouth Marine Invertebrate Fauna. p. 201. Journal of the Marine Biological Association v.7, 1904-06", omits Haliclystus octoradiatus from the fauna, only referring to Haliclystus auricula on Eelgrass. However, during November, 1892, and the spring of 1893, 154 specimens of Haliclystus octoradiatus were collected by officials of the Marine Biological Association at Plymouth for a study into the morphology of Haliclystus octoradiatus by Edward T. Browne, B.A.. Ref: "On the Variation of Haliclystus octoradiatus. Edward T. Browne, B.A.. This paper is accurate and its illustrations indeed refer to Haliclystus octoradiatus. It is therefore extremely puzzling as to why Haliclystus octoradiatus wasn't included in the Plymouth Marine Invertebrate Fauna, in the 1904-06 report.

What is now known and to which Hirano refers, is that previously (historically), neither the variation in intertentacular lobules at the base of the tentacle cluster, or presence, or lack of white nematocyst spots were regarded as taxonomically important features in separating species of Haliclystus.

All I can do here is raise and promote the issues and request that more is done to determine the status and distribution of Haliclystus auricula here in the UK.

The following BAP report refers to Haliclystus auricula being 'Nationally Scarce and declining', but if Haliclystus octoradiatus is more commonly found across the UK, it could be suggested that there has been a decline in numbers of Haliclystus octoradiatus. Sites for Haliclystus auricula s.s. in the UK need to be identified so its true status can be determined. Haliclystus auricula could prove to be be very rare indeed in the UK.

A decline of Haliclystus auricula was noticed at Salcombe, Devon, England; during 1931, with the death on Zostera marina due to wasting disease, caused by the parasitic slime mould Labrynthula. It was reported by Douglas P. Wilson, D.Sc., F.R.P.S. in an article entitled "The decline of Zostera marina L. at Salcombe and it effects on the shore" in the Journal of the Marine Biological Association, No. 28, p.396. that, "The first animals to become scarce were those whose habitat was the leaves of Zostera itself; such species as Rissoa membranacea (J. Adams), Cantharidus striatus (L.) and Haliclystus auricula (Rathke). Some of these seemed to disappear entirely, for they have not, so far as is known, been taken in this locality since."

Wilson's paper was cited by E. J. Perkins in his book "The Biology of Estuaries and Coastal Waters", p.191. It is noted that not all authors agree with Wilson and Robert C. Stauffer's paper "Changes in the Invertebrate Community of a Lagoon After Disapperance of the Eel Grass" that appeared in Ecology 18:427–431, 1937, is cited.

In terms of the affect of loss of habitat and possible decline of Haliclystus auricula, we first have to consider that Haliclystus auricula then included Haliclystus octoradiatus, which is frequently seen, and sometimes found in blooms on Zostera marina. The death and decline of Zostera marina at Salcombe might have caused a loss of habitat, and a decline in Zostera might have effected the local reproduction of Haliclystus, but if Haliclystus octoradiatus is involved, which is likely, the species is more than capable of attaching to other algae that might be present at the same locality and reproducing from it. e.g. Chondrus crispus, which may at some sites be found with Zostera marina. Indeed, early in the year where Zostera marina is exposed on low spring tides, Haliclystus octoradiatus may prefer Chondrus crispus to Zostera marina, so Zostera marina may be less important to Haliclystus octoradiatus (H. auricula) than is described in some texts.

However, it is not known what effect a decline of Zostera marina would have had on the species Haliclystus auricula in the strictest sense; which is know to frequent Zostera marina in other areas, although in places like the Orkney Islands, the species is not solely restricted to Zostera marina.

PDF File - By kind permission of the JNCC.
Joint Nature Conservation Committee.

Haliclystus auricula is also a Northern Ireland Priority Species.

Haliclystus auricula, the Kaleidoscope Jellyfish, is often recorded for Haliclystus octoradiatus, however Haliclystus auricula lacks white nematocyst clusters. (white nematocysts can be clearly seen in the image of Haliclystus octoradiatus to the right).
Ref: A review of a supposedly circurnboreal species of stauromedusa, Haliclystus auricula (Rathke, 1806) by Y.M. Hirano. 1996.

Haliclystus auricula has been found to feed on various small invertebrates, which include copepods, amphipods, ostracods and marine fly larvae.
Ref: Zagal, C.J., 2004 Population biology and habitat of the stauromedusa Haliclystus auricula in southern Chile. Journal of the Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom. 84(2): p. 331-336.

Records and Recording

On clarifying the present situation in terms of the status and recording of Haliclystus octoradiatus and Haliclystus auricula in the UK, to Chris Raper at the Natural History Museum in London; Chris Raper proposed to divide H. auricula into s.s. and s.lat., and add Haliclystus octoradiatus to the UK checklist, to enable to to appear on the NBN Gateway for purposes of recording. Fenwick / Raper 24.02.14.

Records here are divided into s.s. (sensu stricto) and s.lat. (sensu lata). Pre. 2011 records of Haliclystus auricula s.lat. will include Haliclystus octoradiatus, which is likely to be as common and possibly more common and widespread in the UK. Only further recording will allow us to determine the proportions of H. auricula and H. octoradiatus in UK waters.

On looking at Cornish records held by ERCCIS; it is impossible to report what records are of Haliclstus auricula s.s. (sensu stricto) and Haliclystus auricula s.lat. (sensu lata). Fenwick. March 2014.

Records of Haliclystus auricula s.s.

Haliclystus auricula s.s. recorded in good numbers by Penny Martin whilst snorkeling. East side of 2nd Barrier 58, 53.0 N 02 54.4 W. Orkney Islands. 02.06.2013. In the Orkney Islands numbers of Haliclystus auricula were found with Haliclystus octoradiatus. Record confirmed by Marco Faasse and David Fenwick. See images of Haliclystus auricula s.s..

Records of Haliclystus auricula s.lat.

Records of Haliclystus auricula s.lat. held on the
Cornish ERICA database to January 2014*

Records of Haliclystus auricula s.lat. from the Isles
of Scilly from the ERICA database to January 2014*

Distribution Maps and Links

Distribution of Haliclystus auricula s.lat.
in Cornwall from ERICA database (2km)*

10km Distribution Map for UK and Ireland
for Haliclystus auricula s.lat. from NBN Gateway

Just a reminder. Many or most of the records of Haliclystus auricula shown in the map above may be for Haliclystus octoradiatus.

For information on this species in Cornwall see -
Lucernaria auricula - A Cornish Fauna Part III
by Richard Q. Couch 1844

Sites mentioned in the above account need to be surveyed for Haliclystus auricula at the right time of the year. Often, historic accounts cannot be used to separate Haliclystus octoradiatus and Haliclystus auricula. The taxonomically important characteristics that were used to determine the species have changed.

Stauromedusae UK - Photographic Guide
- Haliclystus auricula images

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MarLIN species pages for Haliclystus auricula
Natural England Marine Conservation Zone priority
species information for Haliclystus auricula

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More information will be provided when time allows. If anyone has anything to add, please feel free to contribute. E-mail

Haliclystus auricula image