What a Complicated Lifecycle
Moon jellies (Aurelia aurita) complex life cycle has been the focus of many research projects. Moon Jellies begin life as a planula larva that settles and becomes a polyp that attaches itself onto a rock. A polyp can remain dormant for many years until it strobilates and produces many ephyrae. Each ephyra grows into the familiar bell-shaped adult jellyfish called a medusa.
In 2009-2010 research projects, seven student researchers tested environmental variables that cause the polyps to begin strobilating. These variables include species competition, water temperature, and light type. Polyps were put into different water temperatures (39°F, 55°F, and 72°F). Some polyps were exposed to different amounts of artificial and natural light. Some moon jellyfish polyps were placed into a tank with polyps of a different jellyfish species. One student observed that high levels of natural lighting increased polyp strobilation and now we have over 3,000 ephyrae from a single experiment! These abundant cultures help us supply moon jellyfish to our exhibits and other institutions throughout the world.