Photo safari – lion's mane jellyfish (in an amusing case of tangled tentacles)

By Ed Yong | October 10, 2010 12:00 pm

Have you ever been to an aquarium where large swarms of jellyfish swim around each other in a beautifully lit tank? Have you ever wondered how those drifting tentacles managed to stay untangled, when humans can’t even manage to put a set of headphones in our pocket without ending up with a series of mind-bending knots? Have you ever wondered what would happen if jellyfish did get their tentacles in a twist?

Well, thanks to Monterey Bay Aquarium’s jellyfish exhibit, I can tell you the answer to that last question: hilarity ensues. These are lion’s mane jellyfish. They have no brain or central nervous system, which is fortunate because otherwise, they would probably die of embarrassment.

I shot these photos/videos myself yesterday. The aquarium is incredible. More photos to come later today, and then tomorrow, some brand new science for you.


Comments (9)

  1. natselrox

    I desperately needed this post on this otherwise dull day over the blogosphere. Thanks. No worthy science news either.

  2. Åse

    Hah. Not that I think they can feel embarassment (wouldn’t that be cool – social emotions in jellyfish….). Definitely worth a share.

  3. Hey! You got your bell in my tentacles!

    You got your tentacles in my bell!


  4. Apparently jellyfish cannot blush…. because certainly this would have done it.

  5. Maybe they were just holding hands, err, tentacles.

  6. --E

    How did it end? Did they eventually untangle, or did one lose the tug-of-war (and some tentacles along with it)?

  7. Briana

    Hahaha, they appear to be confused. Even though they are probably not…

    I was doing a marine secci on a boat last summer near the Puget Sound when the Lion’s Mane jellyfish (and many others) were all washing in from the Pacific. The white secci disc thrown into the water on a rope looks like a Moon jellyfish from above, a nice snack for Lion’s Mane… so one immediately propelled out from under the boat and attacked the secci as it sank. We got into a tug of war and I was yelling curses at it, I mean what else are you going to do? Eventually the jellyfish decided it wasn’t edible and drifted on,and left behind a mess of eye-sting inducing tentacles all over the rope :/

  8. @–E It didn’t end. They were well and truly tangled in a way that strongly suggested that they were going to be stuck like that until one or both of them died.

  9. Steve Johnston

    They often get tangled, but usually separate, as they are pretty slippery. Every now and then we use a glass rod to reach in and “untie the knot.”


Discover's Newsletter

Sign up to get the latest science news delivered weekly right to your inbox!

Not Exactly Rocket Science

Dive into the awe-inspiring, beautiful and quirky world of science news with award-winning writer Ed Yong. No previous experience required.

See More

Collapse bottom bar