Leucothea pulchra Matsumoto, 1988
Phylum Ctenophora / Order Lobata / Family Leucotheidae
Lobate comb jelly, Leucothea pulchra, Monterey Bay, Pacific Ocean

Of all the shallow-water lobate ctenophores, this spectacular species is the largest, reaching lengths of at least 25 cm. Careful observation is required anytime you get close to Leucothea while diving – its delicate tissue is easily destroyed. Distinctive brownish-orange papillae cover most of the body. The large oral lobes can be as long as the body and are marked by complex patterns of meandering canals. It swims horizontally at a slow pace while feeding with the lobes spread open. A quartet of worm-like auricles aid in guiding copepods and other crustacean prey into the lobe area. Each lobe folds into a tube upon prey contact and brings the food to the oral tentacles for transfer to the mouth. A pair of long secondary tentacles trails from the mouth area. Leucothea is an infrequent visitor to Monterey Bay during fall and winter months, and may be found south to the Sea of Cortez. When present, it’s large size makes it relatively conspicuous in calm surface waters.

Leucothea pulchra, video courtesy of Patrick Anders Webster, Carmel Bay CA, November 2013

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