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.
All photographs © David
Wrobel and may not be used or copied without permission!