Primary Research Paper


, Volume 703, Issue 1, pp 69-77

First online:

Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.

Contrast and rate of light intensity decrease control directional swimming in the box jellyfish Tripedalia cystophora (Cnidaria, Cubomedusae)

  • Ronald PetieAffiliated withDepartment of Biology, Lund University Email author 
  • , Anders GarmAffiliated withMarine Biological Section, Biological Institute, University of Copenhagen Universitetsparken, 4
  • , Dan-Eric NilssonAffiliated withDepartment of Biology, Lund University


Box jellyfish respond to visual stimuli by changing the dynamics and frequency of bell contractions. In this study, we determined how the contrast and the dimming time of a simple visual stimulus affected bell contraction dynamics in the box jellyfish Tripedalia cystophora. Animals were tethered in an experimental chamber where the vertical walls formed the light stimuli. Two neighbouring walls were darkened and the contraction of the bell was monitored by high-speed video. We found that (1) bell contraction frequency increased with increasing contrast and decreasing dimming time. Furthermore, (2) when increasing the contrast and decreasing the dimming time pulses with an off-centred opening had a better defined direction and (3) the number of centred pulses decreased. Only weak effects were found on the relative diameter of the contracted bell and no correlation was found for the duration of bell contraction. Our observations show that visual stimuli modulate swim speed in T. cystophora by changing the swim pulse frequency. Furthermore, the direction of swimming is better defined when the animal perceives a high-contrast, or fast dimming, stimulus.

Key words

Box jellyfish Cubozoa Visual system Swimming