Visual ecology and functional morphology of Cubozoa (Cnidaria)

  • Coates M
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Jellyfish belong to one of the oldest extant animal phyla, the Cnidaria. The first Cnidaria appear in the fossil record 600 million years ago, preceeding the Cambrian explosion. They are an extremely successful group present in all marine environments and some freshwater environments. In contrast to many animal phyla in which vision is a primary sense Cnidarians do not, generally, employ image forming eyes. One small class stands alone: the Cubozoa. Cubomedusae are commonly known as box jellyfish. They possess image forming eyes (Coates et al., 2001) which certainly evolved independently from other metazoans. Cubomedusae therefore offer a unique perspective on the evolution of image forming eyes. This literature review collects, into one place, what is known about: the multiple eye types of box jellyfish, cubomedusan life history and ecology, and the sensory and neural systems of box jellyfish. Here I discuss how these features set cubomedusae apart from scyphomedusae and hydromedusae. Knowledge in these areas is sparse; the work done to date inspires increased efforts.

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  • Melissa M. Coates

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