Lampea pancerina (Chun, 1879)
Phylum Ctenophora / Order Cydippida / Family Lampeidae
Comb jelly, Lampea pancerina, Monterey Bay, Pacific Ocean

Here’s a comb jelly you won’t encounter too often in California waters. Compared to its far more common cydippid relative, Pleurobrachia, this species has a more elongate body, with a tapered oral end. Perhaps the most distinctive feature is the huge pharynx, extending up to 5/6 the length of the body. The mouth is highly extensible. Circular in cross section, the body may reach lengths of 2 to 3 cm. The paired tentacles have relatively short side branches. The equal-length comb rows extend from the aboral end part way along the length of the body, to the openings of the sheaths where the tentacles exit. Lampea can have a milky white color, or a rosy tinge with pink pigmentation in the comb rows. It has a somewhat unusual feeding preference for a ctenophore, preying exclusively on salps. Small individuals glomb onto the bodies of salps and consume pieces, much like a parasite. At one time they were classified as an entirely different organism (Gastrodes parasiticum). Larger individuals can engulf entire salp chains. Sometimes seen in surface waters of Monterey Bay and deeper water off Santa Barbara, Lampea is a more common sight in the Mediterranean, Atlantic Ocean, and off the coast of Japan.

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