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The jellyfish Rhizostoma luteum (Quoy & Gaimard, 1827): not such a rare species after all


Rhizostoma luteum was first described in 1827 by Quoy and Gaimard under the name Orythia lutea, based on nine specimens collected from the Strait of Gibraltar (southern Iberian Peninsula). After 60 years of no scientific records existing for this species, in 2013, a phylogenetic analysis confirmed that R. luteum differed from Rhizostoma pulmo and Rhizostoma octopus. In the present study, we report historical and recent records of living and stranded specimens of R. luteum since 1998. We reviewed historical accounts and photographic and videographic materials taken by citizens from the northeastern Atlantic Ocean and the Alboran Sea. Because of its similarity with the closely related Mediterranean R. pulmo, R. luteum was frequently misidentified in the Alboran Sea and, likewise, with another medusa from the order Rhizostomeae, Catostylus tagi, in the adjacent Atlantic Ocean coastal regions in the last two decades. The results of this investigation confirm the existence of the scyphomedusa R. luteum in the coastal waters of the west and south coasts of the Iberian Peninsula and west and north shores of Africa. Through a citizen science initiative and our own observations, we were able to confirm more than 150 observations of R. luteum over the past 17 years, demonstrating that this medusa is not such a rare species after all.

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We would like to thank D. Enayati for his technical assistance and A. Villaescusa, A. Moreno, S. Flecha, M. Ferrer, J. Alonso and F. Martínez-García for their support in the field. We thank the Puerto Deportivo Marina del Este (La Herradura, Granada) for allowing us to sample inside their marina and for providing us with space to conduct our research. This work was financially supported by projects from PERSEUS (FP7-287600) and the Consejería de Medio Ambiente, Junta de Andalucía (Observatorio Global del Estrecho). Parts of this study are the results of a PhD thesis (Kienberger, in prep.). K. K. has received financial assistance from a PhD fellowship from the Rotary Club Geneva Lac, Switzerland and the Rotary Foundation, District 1990. A research grant to L. P. from the Ramón y Cajal Programme of the Spanish MIC is also acknowledged. We would also like to thank C. Mock for consulting on English editing, and Dr. S. Piraino and the four anonymous reviewers for their valuable observations that strengthened the original manuscript.

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Correspondence to Karen Kienberger.

Additional information

Communicated by S. Piraino

Electronic supplementary material

Below are the links to the electronic supplementary material.

Video of a swimming specimen of R. luteum on September 23, 2014 at Marina del Este, La Herradura (northeastern Alboran Sea): bell diameter of 55 cm, longest terminal appendage 165 cm (record number 102). Source of the video: Darius Enayati. (MP4 5185 kb)


ST1 Summary of historical literature review. (PDF 83 kb)


ST2 Records of R. luteum, R. pulmo and C. tagi from 1993 to 2015. Abbreviations: s swimming; b beached. (PDF 294 kb)

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Kienberger, K., Prieto, L. The jellyfish Rhizostoma luteum (Quoy & Gaimard, 1827): not such a rare species after all. Mar Biodiv 48, 1455–1462 (2018).

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  • Rhizostomeae
  • Scyphomedusa
  • Rhizostoma pulmo
  • Catostylus tagi
  • Citizen science
  • Alboran Sea