Stalked jellyfish

Haliclystus spp.

Kaleidoscope jellyfish (Haliclystus auricula) © Paul Kay

Stalked jellyfish are members of a group of animals called cnidarians that includes anemones, jellyfish, sea pens and corals.  The word cnidaria means ‘stinging creature’ and they all possess stinging cells, which they use to kill or paralyse prey and for defence.

‘Jellyfish’ conjures up a misleading image of this animal, as it spends all its life attached to the seabed, usually on seaweed or seagrass. This stalked jellyfish is quite beautiful and more closely resembles a coral than a jellyfish.  It is funnel-shaped and grows to about 2cm high, with clusters of up to one hundred short, stinging tentacles at the tips of eight webbed arms.

Stalked jellyfish are not even free-floating as larvae.  Instead, they have creeping larvae which crawl across the sea floor and find a suitable place to attach themselves to, where they eventually develop into new adults. 

Stalked jellyfish prefer shallow areas, with adequate water movement to bring plenty of food, and may be found at the bottom of the shore. They tend to be very sensitive to pollution and changes in environmental conditions.


European distribution

This stalked jellyfish is recorded from the Shetland Isles, Orkney, the west coasts of England, Ireland and Scotland, with isolated records from Northumberland.  A cold-water animal, it is also found in the wider North Atlantic and the Arctic Ocean.


Conservation status/need

  • Kaleidoscope Jellyfish FactThis is a UK BAP Priority Species (BAP species are now Species of Principal Importance/Priority Species).
  • Species of principal importance for the purpose of conservation of biodiversity under the Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act 2006


Further information

Marine Life Information Network

World Register of Marine Species

JNCC - UK BAP Priority Species and Habitats