Marine Biology

, Volume 78, Issue 2, pp 215–221 | Cite as

Ingestion of a medusa (Aegina citrea) by the nematocyst-containing ctenophore Haeckelia rubra (formerly Euchlora rubra): phylogenetic implications

  • C. E. Mills
  • R. L. Miller


The rare ctenophore Haeckelia rubra (formerly Euchlora rubra) has long been known to have nematocysts rather than colloblasts in its tentacles. Five specimens were collected in the San Juan Archipelago, Washington State, USA in 1980 and 1981, and their feeding behavior was observed in the laboratory. We found that H. rubra readily eats the tentacles of a medusa, Aegina citrea, whose nematocysts (apotrichous isorhizas) are nearly identical in morphology to the nematocysts of the ctenophore. When H. rubra was offered 16 other species of hydromedusae and 1 siphonophore in the laboratory, the ctenophores showed little or no tendency to ingest these potential prey items. In addition to its routinely positive response to A. citrea, the ctenophore could be induced by manipulation and starvation to accept and ingest bits of the bodies of 4 additional species of hydromedusae and 1 siphonophore. These results, combined with the histological and rearing experiments of other investigators, leave little doubt that the nematocysts in H. rubra are not endogenous, but are “kleptocnidae” similar to those nematocysts retained and subsequently used by some species of nudibranchs that feed on Cnidaria. A close phylogenetic link between the Cnidaria and the Ctenophora is most unlikely.


Feeding Behavior Positive Response Prey Item Additional Species Potential Prey 
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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1984

Authors and Affiliations

  • C. E. Mills
    • 1
  • R. L. Miller
    • 2
    • 3
  1. 1.Friday Harbor LaboratoriesUniversity of WashingtonFriday HarborUSA
  2. 2.Friday Harbor LaboratoriesFriday HarborUSA
  3. 3.Department of BiologyTemple UniversityPhiladelphiaUSA

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