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Systematics, phylogeny and biogeography

Cyanea capillata is not a cosmopolitan jellyfish: morphological and molecular evidence for C. annaskala and C. rosea (Scyphozoa : Semaeostomeae : Cyaneidae) in south-eastern Australia

Michael N. Dawson
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

A Biological, Earth, and Environmental Sciences, University of New South Wales, Sydney, NSW 2052, Australia.

B Current address: Section of Evolution & Ecology, College of Biological Science, University of California at Davis, One Shields Avenue, Davis, CA 95616, USA.

C Email:

Invertebrate Systematics 19(4) 361-370
Submitted: 17 October 2003  Accepted: 16 June 2005   Published: 30 September 2005


The taxonomic status of the lion’s mane jellyfish, Cyanea, of south-eastern Australia has been unsettled since 1884 when medusae from Port Jackson were described as a new variety of C. annaskala von Lendenfeld rather than assigned to C. rosea Quoy & Gaimard described previously from the same location. Cyanea annaskala was later combined with C. mullerianthe Haacke then synonymised with C. capillata (Linnaeus), which is now considered a circumglobal species, before being resurrected as a subspecies, C. capillata annaskala, in 1986. Here I demonstrate that Cyanea in southern New South Wales and Cyanea in Tasmania and Victoria constitute two distinct morphological groups separated by >10% sequence difference in both cytochrome c oxidase subunit I and internal transcribed spacer 1. Moreover, these clades are molecularly distinct (>6%) from C. capillata collected in its North Sea type locality. Analyses of medusae from another type locality, Port Philip Bay, Victoria, demonstrate that Cyanea annaskala von Lendenfeld is a valid species. Cyanea rosea is tentatively resurrected for medusae from New South Wales, pending confirmation by analyses of medusae from the vicinity of Sydney. Assigning other south-eastern Australian Cyanea specimens from museum collections to species is difficult in the absence of molecular analyses because biogeographic and morphological inferences sometimes conflict. Integrative molecular and morphological analyses of medusae from type localities may offer the most robust approach to straightening out the often convoluted systematics of scyphomedusae.


Samples were collected by N. Knott (Port Phillip), A. Knowlton (Kachemak Bay) and M. Martinussen and U. Bamstedt (Raunefjorden). C. Crawford, L. Martin, and S. Wilcox gave considerable support in the field in Australia. K. Bayha and R. Condon provided much useful discussion and three anonymous reviewers many comments that greatly improved the manuscript. P. Anderson, D. Miller, and D. Odorico supplied the geographic origin of U65481. Collections were completed with permission from New South Wales Fisheries (permit F85/122) and Tasmania Department of Primary Industries, Water, and Environment (permit 2235). The study was funded by a Vice-Chancellor’s Post-Doctoral Research Fellowship and by the Centre for Marine and Coastal Studies at the University of New South Wales.


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