The blue whale is the largest animal on Earth, and it’s larger than any dinosaur ever discovered. However, since its maximum length is about 98 feet (30 m), it is not the longest animal alive today. That distinction probably belongs to the lion’s mane jellyfish (Cyanea capillata). I say probably because specimens of the bootlace worm (Lineus longissimus) have been found that were longer, but the worm stretches, so the measurement may not be accurate.
The tentacles of the lion’s mane jellyfish are what gives it such great length. The longest tentacles of any lion’s mane jellyfish ever found measured 121 feet (37 m). Lion’s mane jellies love cold water. You can find them in the Arctic Ocean as well as the northern Atlantic and Pacific. They sometimes show up south of 42 degrees north latitude, but the ones that are in the warmer waters tend to be smaller.
These creatures get their name from their long tentacles that might resemble the mane of a lion. Those tentacles are in eight clusters emanating from the eight lobes of the bell, and each cluster has over 100 tentacles. They use those sticky tentacles to capture their prey including fish, other sea creatures called zooplankton, and smaller jellyfish. The tentacles deliver a toxic sting that can disable their prey. In the summer when leatherback sea turtles are in the northern waters, they feed almost exclusively on lion’s mane jellies. This food-chain helps to keep Arctic ocean life in balance.
The lion’s mane jellyfish is another one of God’s dandy designs in a remarkable web of life on Earth.
© Roland Earnst