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Crystal jelly

Crystal jelly

On Exhibit: Open Sea

Animal Facts

  • Scientific Name

    Aequorea victoria

  • Animal Type


  • Diet

    copepods; however, it tends to favor comb jellies and other hydromedusae

  • Size

    bell diameter can grow to 10 inches (25 cm), but usually no larger than 3 inches (8 cm) in Monterey Bay

  • Relatives

    other hydromedusae, sea anemones, coral; Family: Aequoreidae

  • Habitat

    Open Waters

  • Range

    off the west Coast of North America from central California to Vancouver, mainly near Washington and British Columbia

Natural History

Graceful and nearly transparent, these jellies have long, delicate tentacles. They can expand their mouths when feeding to swallow jellies more than half their size. When disturbed, they give off a green-blue glow under special lighting because of more than 100 tiny, light-producing organs surrounding their outer bell. They're harvested for their luminescent aequorin, used in neurological and biological experiments to detect calcium.


Jellies go with the flow, swimming just a bit, drifting where the currents take them. So all the trash thrown in the ocean is floating along with the jellies and other remarkable species, changing an environment we know little about.

Cool Facts

Crystal jellies are brightly luminescent jellies, with glowing points around the margin of the umbrella. The components required for bioluminescence include a Calcium++ activated photoprotein, called aequorin, that emits a blue-green light, and an accessory green fluorescent protein (GFP), which accepts energy from aequorin and re-emits it as green light.

Crystal jellies can live more than two years on exhibit. Our aquarists are careful not to allow conditions to become too crowded, as these jellies have been known to cannabilize each other.

Scientists have created "green mice" that glow green when hit by blue light by inserting the GFP gene from the crystal jelly into the mice. The glowing protein is a widely used biological highlighter that helps scientists find and study genes more quickly.

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