Scyphozoans are free-swimming, polymorphic, dioecious, and carnivorous cnidarians with a prominent medusa morphology.
- Explain the key features of scyphozoa
- Scyphozoans have a ring of muscles that lines the dome of their bodies; these structures provide them with the contractile force they need to swim through water.
- Scyphozoans have separate sexes and form planula larvae through external fertilization.
- Jellies exhibit the polyp form, known as a scyphistoma, after their larvae settle on a substrate; these forms will later bud-off and transform into their more prominenent medusa forms.
- dioecious: having the male and female reproductive organs on separate parts (of the same species)
- rhopalia: small sensory structures found within Scyphozoa that are characterized by clusters of neurons that can be used to sense light
- scyphistoma: the polypoid form of scyphozoans
- nematocyst: a capsule, in certain cnidarians, containing a barbed, threadlike tube that delivers a paralyzing sting
Class Scyphozoa, an exclusively marine class of animals with about 200 known species, includes all the jellies. The defining characteristic of this class is that the medusa is the prominent stage in the life cycle, although there is a polyp stage present. Members of this species range from 2 to 40 cm in length, but the largest scyphozoan species, Cyanea capillata, can reach a size of 2 m across. Scyphozoans display a characteristic bell-like morphology.
In the jellyfish, a mouth opening, surrounded by tentacles bearing nematocysts, is present on the underside of the animal. Scyphozoans live most of their life cycle as free-swimming, solitary carnivores. The mouth leads to the gastrovascular cavity, which may be sectioned into four interconnected sacs, called diverticuli. In some species, the digestive system may be further branched into radial canals. Like the septa in anthozoans, the branched gastrovascular cells serves to increase the surface area for nutrient absorption and diffusion; thus, more cells are in direct contact with the nutrients in the gastrovascular cavity.
In scyphozoans, nerve cells are scattered over the entire body. Neurons may even be present in clusters called rhopalia. These animals possess a ring of muscles lining the dome of the body, which provides the contractile force required to swim through water. Scyphozoans are dioecious animals, having separate sexes. The gonads are formed from the gastrodermis with gametes expelled through the mouth. Planula larvae are formed by external fertilization; they settle on a substratum in a polypoid form known as scyphistoma. These forms may produce additional polyps by budding or may transform into the medusoid form. The life cycle of these animals can be described as polymorphic because they exhibit both a medusal and polypoid body plan at some point.