Debate exists regarding the number of species of the moon jellyfish (genus Aurelia), a common member of the planktonic community of the coastal shelf seas around the world. Three Aurelia congeners (A. aurita, A. labiata and A. limbata) are currently considered to exist but recent genetic analyses suggested that this is an oversimplification. We analyzed the morphological characteristics of scyphistomae, morphological characteristics of ephyrae and differences in the time span of the strobilation process of Aurelia congeners from 17, 7 and 6 different source populations, respectively, of known species. Morphological characteristics of scyphistomae were similar among the 17 populations but those of ephyrae, such as the shape and form of lappets, were effective discriminators in the 6 cases examined. We recommend identifying species based on differences in 1) the morphological characteristics of scyphistomae and ephyrae (and not only medusae), 2) the genetics of individuals, and 3) the geographical occurrence of the population. This study adds to the growing body of knowledge on scyphozoan scyphistomae and ephyrae, stages of the metagenic life cycle of scyphozoans that have received relatively little study compared to medusae.
Polyps, jellyfish, strobilation, nomenclature, morphology.