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