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Box Jellyfish

Updated on February 26, 2016

Class Cubozoa

Photo taken by Guido Gautsch
Photo taken by Guido Gautsch


While the Jellyfish is known to sting people that it comes into contact with, some of the species are more dangerous than others. Some of them such as the Box Jellyfish have enough toxins that they could kill a person. While most people do make a complete recovery not all of them do. That risk of severe pain, swelling, and perhaps death is just too much for most people. They don’t want to get into any body of water where they may have been spotted.


While many species of Jellyfish vary in color, design, and size, the Box Jellyfish is very unique. It has a body that is shaped like an umbrella instead of one that is dome like. This suits their needs because it helps them to have control over movements. It is also why this species of Jellyfish is able to move so quickly.

This is also one of the few species of Jellyfish that have eyes. They have several clusters of them. Studies show that these eyes are able to detect light from dark. They are also able to tell various shades of light. That combined with the elite nervous system make it very simple for the Box Jellyfish to locate prey. At the same time they are able to escape from predators.


We don’t have any real concrete evidence about the evolution for the Box Jellyfish. What we do have are fossil remains that are over 650 million years old. They show us that this is one of the oldest living creatures in the world. Yet where the various species – more than 2,000 of them – branched of too make their own way in the world hasn’t been successfully identified.

There is no shortage of great theories though that surround the evolution process for the Box Jelly fish. Many of them talk about the eyes, the nervous system, and even the toxin levels that set them apart from other Jellyfish. Don’t overlook the fact that they have control over movement too. Yet how did all of these changes and improvements happen? Only time will tell if one day we have those answers.

Perfect Predator: Box Jellyfish


Even though you may be able to identify the look of the Box Jellyfish they are fast and they are sneaky. They have been termed as the Sucker Punch Jellyfish because they can knock you off your feet fast. Imagine swimming around in the ocean and then you have pain so terrible you can barely move. It can be tough to get back to the shore on your own.

It is important to understand though that the Box Jellyfish is only doing what is natural to them. They are designed to respond to anything that they touch with the tentacles. When that contact it made they instantly release those toxins. That could be when they touch prey, a human, or anything that is in the ocean.

They are very fast and they can control where they will move. If they detect a human as a threat they may attack. They aren’t going to just be floating around out there due to the current or due to the wind.

Habitat and Distribution

There are all types of oceans out there around the world where the Box Jellyfish lives. They include area of New Zealand, Japan, and even California along those beach areas where so many tourists and even the locals spend their time. They have been increasing in numbers in Australia and that has caused concern.

The Box Jellyfish that are found in Australia seem to be much larger than in other locations. They also tend to be able to thrive due to a decrease in the number of fish. They aren’t being consumed by the fish so more of them reach the age of maturity. There have been reports of people being stung on a regular basis along the beaches of Australia. Sadly, this is also where some of those reported fatalities have occurred.

Photo Taken by Ernst Haeckel
Photo Taken by Ernst Haeckel

Diet and Feeding Habits

As is the story with all species of Jellyfish, they will eat and eat every chance they get. They have a very large stomach and they swallow food whole. They use their sticky tentacles to get it and then place it into the mouth. Their venom goes into the prey instantly from the tentacles so that it can’t escape.

There are complex enzymes at work in the stomach. That is how the prey is broken down in to a source of nutrition that they can use to survive. There are various types of food that they rely on in their environment for survival. This includes eggs, plankton, crustaceans, and small species of fish. They have also been known to consume the larvae from different species of Jellyfish.


The reproduction for the Box Jellyfish is very interesting. They can do so along or with a mate. They don’t ever interact with their bodies for mating though. Instead there is the creation of eggs and the creation of sperm. The eggs and sperm mix for the larvae to form.

The tentacles of the Box Jellyfish are where those larvae are going to attach themselves. From there they will attach to a permanent location but not until they have developed very fine hairs. Those hairs help them to move through the water. They are very small when they are larvae and susceptible to predators such as filter feeding forms of aquatic life.

Next they form into polyps which is a very complex and amazing process. It can occur very slowly and take up to a full year for it to be completed. They can get into clusters of hundreds of polyps. This helps with their overall survival because as food comes by they get it. To divide up the food resources there are feeding tubes that connect all of the polyps in a given group.

It can take more than a year for the polyps to break off from each other and be known in the form as a Box Jellyfish. They will have their eyes, mouth, and various tentacles in order to help them survive. They only have about 3 months from this point in the lifecycle though until they will parish.

Box Jellyfish Stinger


While the Box Jellyfish may be one of the most dangerous and aggressive that we have in the world, they aren’t prone to their own types of predators. Large fish can be a threat to them. So can certain types of sharks and whales out there. The Turtle though is the biggest predator. Their shell and protective lids above the eyes protect them from the toxins that any Jellyfish offers.

The turtles in the ocean travel long distances for migration and mating annually. Many experts believe that the Box Jellyfish serves a big part of the food resources that they need in order to make that type of journey successfully.

Humans are very worried about the Box Jellyfish and they don’t want to share the beach with them. They have put out nets and other devices to capture them in the hopes that less people will be stung by them. It can be a very difficult effort though to manage this type of effort successfully.


Submit a Comment

  • nicomp profile image

    nicomp really 5 years ago from Ohio, USA

    "What we do have are fossil remains that are over 650 million years old."

    How were the remains dated?

  • laurentmikhail profile image

    Laurent Mikhail 5 years ago from Miami, FL

    Thank you very much!

  • aviannovice profile image

    Deb Hirt 5 years ago from Stillwater, OK

    Fantastic material on the box jellyfish that I knew nothing about. Keep up the good work, and thanks.