Polyorchis penicillatus (Eschscholtz, 1829), top; P. haplus Skogsberg, 1948, bottom : Bell Jelly
Phylum Cnidaria / Class Hydrozoa / Order Anthomedusae / Family Polyorchidae

Not all jellies inhabit the boundless open ocean. Bell jellies feel more at home in quiet bays and harbors, often near the bottom. Polyorchis penicillatus has about 100 or more thin, long tentacles, which are used to pick up benthic crustaceans. Captured food is transferred to the mouth, which is attached to a long tubular stomach that extends nearly the length of the bell. Distinctive light-sensitive ocelli, each with a ring of red pigment, are situated at the bases of the tentacles. Bell jellies will actually respond to bright lights at night (such as from a camera flash) and quickly swim away. The rest of the jelly is basically colorless, with a transparent bell (4 to 6 cm high) and whitish manubrium, gonads and tentacles. Long tubular gonads hang from each of the 4 branched radial canals. P. penicillatus can be found in nearshore waters along the entire coast of North America. This is one jelly you don’t always need to get out on the water to see – it can sometimes be found near the surface around docks in harbors. A similar species, Polyorchis haplus (second photo), is confined to California waters. It has fewer tentacles (up to 30) that are a bit stouter and may have a more golden-brown color, and 4 radial canals that are usually unbranched. The genus name (Polyorchis) is derived from the Greek, polys (many) and orchis (testicle). Although they are not currently cultured anywhere, bell jellies are a relatively popular display species at public aquariums.

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