Spotted Lagoon Jelly (Mastigias papua)

A group of spotted lagoon jellyfish
-Photo by Matthew T. Ross-

The spotted jellyfish (Mastigias papua) belongs to the phylum cnidaria. This means they contain a specialized structure in their skin, called a cnidocyte, that the jellyfish uses to defend itself and attack its prey. The cnidocyte effectively functions as a toxin-filled pressurized harpoon that pierces into anything unlucky enough to come into contact with it.

Below you can see what a discharged cnidocyte looks like under a scanning electron microscope:

source - wikimedia common 
Pretty nasty to imagine it sticking into your skin.

In addition to being weaponized, the spotted lagoon jelly are particularly interesting because they have many small mouths in what's called their oral arms. The jellyfish use their many arm mouths to eat plankton. Imagine having a mouth at the end of each of your hands—it would certainly beat using a fork. 


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Matthew is a neuroscientist investigating vocal motor processing, focusing on how the brain changes during development, but is passionate about all things science. He loves art and photography, producing his own digital artwork inspired by science and anatomy. Matthew also plays guitar and piano and has recorded several albums. You can find more of his projects at his website:

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