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Distribution, extent of inter-annual variability and diet of the bloom-forming jellyfish Rhizostoma in European waters

  • M.K.S. Lilley (a1), J.D.R. Houghton (a1) and G.C. Hays (a1)

Jellyfish (Cnidaria: Scyphozoa) are increasingly thought to play a number of important ecosystem roles, but often fundamental knowledge of their distribution, seasonality and inter-annual variability is lacking. Bloom forming species, due to their high densities, can have particularly intense trophic and socio-economic impacts. In northern Europe it is known that one particularly large (up to 30 kg wet weight) bloom forming jellyfish is Rhizostoma spp. Given the potential importance, we set out to review all known records from peer-reviewed and broader public literature of the jellyfish R. octopus (Linnaeus) and R. pulmo (Macri) (Scyphozoa: Rhizostomae) across western Europe. These data revealed distinct hotspots where regular Rhizostoma spp. aggregations appeared to form, with other sites characterized by occasional abundances and a widespread distribution of infrequent observations. Surveys of known R. octopus hotspots around the Irish Sea also revealed marked inter-annual variation with particularly high abundances forming during 2003. The location of such consistent aggregations and inter-annual variances are discussed in relation to physical, climatic and dietary variations.

Corresponding author
Correspondence should be addressed to: M.K.S. Lilley, Institute of Environmental Sustainability, Swansea University, Singleton Park, Swansea, SA2 8PP, UK email:
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