Jellyfishes

Below are examples of jellyfishes you might find washed up on northern Oregon beaches. This isn’t an exhaustive accounting; just the ones I’ve come across and have photos of. As for identification, you can get close on the identifications with the readily available field guides and online resources (see References, at the bottom of the page). I provide alternatives to the photos you’ll find in the field guides and online sources, and natural history notes if I can think of something that hasn’t already been said.

The organization more or less follows Lamb and Hanby (2005). Common names are my choice; usually some combination of those in Lamb and Hanby (2005), and Harbo (2011). I refer to WoRMS for scientific names, and I learn a ton by browsing the natural history riches in Kozloff (1993). All photos are from northern Oregon unless otherwise noted in the caption.

Lion’s mane jellyfish, Cyanea capillata – Lions mane’s aren’t common in the northern Oregon drift line; I can’t say I’ve encountered more than a few fragments there. The one below is from the quieter waters of the Gulf Islands, BC, Canada, where I have seen several in September. Look for an eight-lobed bell.

Lion's mane, Cyanea capillata, floating in shallow quiet water over a gravel substrate
Lion’s mane, Cyanea capillata | Mayne Island, BC, Canada

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Fried egg jellyfish, Phacellophora camtschatica – I don’t come across fried egg jellies often. I’m pretty sure these are fried eggs, so I’ll stick with that unless somebody comes up with an alternative interpretation.

Sea nettle, Chrysaora sp. – Sea nettles are one of the most common large jellies washed up on northern Oregon beaches. More images of sea nettles in the drift line can be found in Red-eyed medusa, Polyorchis penicillatus.

Purple-striped jellyfish, Chrysaora sp. – An uncommon find in the northern Oregon drift line, purple striped jellies normally have a limited range around Monterey Bay, California. I came across a couple near Cannon Beach, Oregon in the spring of 2017

Purple-striped jellyfish, Chrysaora sp., washed up in the drift line.
Purple-striped jellyfish, Chrysaora sp.

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Moon jelly, Aurelia sp. – Moon jellies, along with sea nettles (above), are one of the most common large jellies washed up on northern Oregon beaches.

More images of moon jellies in the drift line can be found in Red-eyed medusa, Polyorchis penicillatus. I included a video of live moon jellies at the Tennessee Aquarium in Aequorea and Other Tennessee Jellies.

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Water jelly, Aequorea sp. – I don’t notice complete Aequorea too often. They are common, but being thin and transparent, they are easy to overlook. The two shown below are only about 3″ (7.6 cm) across. I floated the one on the left in a finger bowl to get a better look. Aequorea and some random jellyfish talk (even a moon jelly video) are featured in Aequorea and Other Tennessee Jellies.

Red-eye medusa, probably Polyorchis penicillatus – Little red-eyes can be common in the drift line. To get a good view, float them in a finger bowl (image on the right), or be creative and float it in the bottom of an upside down half-pint canning jar (image on the left). Polyorchis (if, indeed, that’s what these are) is featured in  Red-eyed medusa, Polyorchis penicillatus.

By-the-wind sailor, Velella velella – Look for springtime Velella beachcasts. Among freshly stranded Velella look for blue buoy barnacles, and maybe even tiny Janthina, a violet colored ocean-drifting snail. Velella is featured in Drift Line and The Drift Line’s Getting Slippery on the Northern Oregon Coast: By-the-Wind Sailors Wash Ashore in Great Numbers.

fresh by-the-wind sailor, Velella velella in the drift line.
By-the-wind sailor, Velella velella

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Note: If you like cnidarians, you might also want to take a look at my Sea Anemone page.

References

Harbo, R. M. 2011. Whelks to Whales: Coastal Marine Life of the Pacific Northwest. 2nd ed. Harbour Publishing Co.

Kozloff, E. N. 1993. Seashore Life of the Northern Pacific Coast. 3rd ed. University of Washington Press.

Lamb, A. and B. P. Hanby. 2005. Marine Life of the Pacific Northwest. Harbour Publishing.

Sept. J. D. 2009. The Beachcomber’s Guide to Seashore Life in the Pacific Northwest. Revised ed. Harbour Publishing.

Online Resources

Biodiversity of the Central Coast’s Cnidarians and Ctenophores

This page was updated on November 11, 2021.