Marine Biology

, Volume 151, Issue 3, pp 1021–1033 | Cite as

Abundance, distribution and prey composition of scyphomedusae in the southern North Sea

  • Kristina BarzEmail author
  • Hans-Jürgen Hirche
Research Article


The annual cycle of abundance and distribution of the scyphozoan medusae Aurelia aurita, Cyanea lamarckii, C. capillata and Chrysaora hysoscella were studied in the southern North Sea in 2004 and 2005. Three different patterns of seasonal occurrence of medusae were distinguished: (1) the early occurring C. lamarckii (February–August), (2) C. capillata and A. aurita (April–August) and (3) the late appearing C. hysoscella (July/August–September). Cyanea lamarckii was the most frequently encountered species in this study; its highest mean abundance was 1.8 ± 2.7 ind. 100 m−3. The prey spectra of C. lamarckii, C. capillata and C. hysoscella contained several copepod and other crustacean species and thus make them potential competitors with fish larvae. Medusae in this study also consumed fish eggs and larvae, including clupeids, in all months analysed. Although peak spawning of sprat (Sprattus sprattus) coincides with the maximum abundance of medusae (May–June) the relative low abundance of all medusae species in this study makes jellyfish predation unlikely to be a factor controlling sprat recruitment in the time frame investigated.


North Atlantic Oscillation Index German Bight Station Grid Elbe Estuary Dutch Coast 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



This study would not have been possible without the support of many colleagues and students in collecting and analysing medusae. We thank the crews of RV Alkor, Heincke and A. v. Humboldt. Many thanks also to Ulrike Holtz and Adrian Basilico for their help in examination of medusae and to Dr. Myron Peck for helpful editorial comments. Dr. Rainer Knust and Inken Suck provided the Mapit programme. This research was funded by GLOBEC Germany, BMBF 03F0320D.


  1. Alheit J, Wahl E, Cihangir B (1987) Distribution, abundance, development rates, production and mortality of sprat eggs. ICES CM 1987/H:45Google Scholar
  2. Alheit J, Möllmann C, Dutz J, Kornilovs G, Loewe P, Mohrholz V, Wasmund N (2005) Synchronous ecological regime shifts in the central Baltic and the North Sea in the late 1980s. ICES J Mar Sci 62:1205–1215CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Arai MN (2001) Pelagic coelenterates and eutrophication: a review. Hydrobiologia 451:69–87CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Aurich HJ (1941) Die Verbreitung der pelagischen Fischbrut in der südlichen Nordsee während der Frühjahrsfahrten 1926–1937 der deutschen Forschungsschiffe Poseidon und Makrele. Helgol wiss Meeresunters 2:184–225CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Båmstedt U, Martinussen MB, Matsakis S (1994) Trophodynamics of the two scyphozoan jellyfishes, Aurelia aurita and Cyanea capillata, in western Norway. ICES J Mar Sci 51:369–382CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Båmstedt U, Ishii H, Martinussen MB (1997) Is the scyphomedusa Cyanea capillata (L.) dependent on gelatinous prey for its early development? Sarsia 82:269–273CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Barz K, Hirche H-J (2005) Seasonal development of scyphozoan medusae and the predatory impact of Aurelia aurita on the zooplankton community in the Bornholm Basin (central Baltic Sea). Mar Biol 147:465–476CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Beaugrand G (2003) Long-term changes in copepod abundance and diversity in the north-east Atlantic in relation to fluctuations in the hydroclimatic environment. Fish Oceanogr 12:270–283CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Beaugrand G (2004) The North Sea regime shift: evidence, causes, mechanisms and consequences. Prog Oceanogr 60:245–262CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Beaugrand G, Reid PC, Ibañez F, Lindley JA, Edwards M (2002) Reorganization of North Atlantic marine copepod biodiversity and climate. Science 296:1692–1694CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Brewer RH (1976) Larval settling behaviour in Cyanea capillata (Cnidaria: Scyphozoa). Biol Bull 150:183–199CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Brierley AS, Axelsen BE, Buecher E, Sparks CAJ, Boyer H, Gibbons MJ (2001) Acoustic observations of jellyfish in the Namibian Benguela. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 210:55–66CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Brodeur RD, Mills CE, Overland JE, Walters GE, Schumacher JD (1999) Evidence for a substansial increase in gelatinous zooplankton in the Bering Sea, with possible links to climate change. Fish Oceanogr 8:296–306CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Brodeur RD, Sugisaki H, Hunt GLJ (2002) Increases in jellyfish biomass in the Bering Sea: implications for the ecosystem. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 233:89–103CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Creutzberg F, Eltink ATGW, Noort GJv (1978) The migration of plaice larvae Pleuronectes platessa into the western Wadden Sea. In: McLusky DS, Berry AJ (eds) Physiology and behaviour of marine organisms, Proceedings of 12th European marine biological symposium. Pergamon, Oxford, pp 243–251CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Dawson MN, Martin LE, Penland LK (2001) Jellyfish swarms, tourists, and the christ-child. Hydrobiologia 451:131–144CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Dickmann M (2005) Feeding ecology of sprat (Sprattus sprattus L.) and sardine (Sardina pilchardus W.) larvae in the Baltic Sea and the North Sea. PhD thesis, University of Rostock, GermanyGoogle Scholar
  18. Dittrich B (1988) Studies on the life cycle and reproduction of the parasitic amphipod Hyperia galba in the North Sea. Helgol Meeresunters 42:79–98CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Fancett MS (1988) Diet and prey selectivity of scyphomedusae from Port Phillip Bay, Australia. Mar Biol 98:503–509CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Graham WM, Pages F, Hamner WM (2001) A physical context for gelatinous zooplankton aggregations: a review. Hydrobiologia 451:199–212CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Gröndahl F (1988) A comparative ecological study on the scyphozoans Aurelia aurita, Cyanea capillata and C. lamarckii in the Gullmar Fjord, western Sweden, 1982 to 1986. Mar Biol 97:541–550CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Gröndahl F, Hernroth L (1987) Release and growth of Cyanea capillata (L.) ephyrae in the Gullmar Fjord, western Sweden. J Exp Mar Biol Ecol 106:91–101CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Hansson LJ (1997) Capture and digestion of the scyphozoan jellyfish Aurelia aurita by Cyanea capillata and prey response to predator contact. J Plankton Res 19:195–208CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Harding D, Nichols JH, Tungate DS (1978) The spawning of plaice (Pleuronectes platessa L.) in the southern North Sea and English Channel. Rapp P-V Réun Cons Int Explor Mer 172:102–113Google Scholar
  25. Hartlaub C (1894) Die Coelenteraten Helgolands. Beiträge zur Meeresfauna von Helgoland 4, Wiss Meeresunters, N.F. 1:161–206Google Scholar
  26. Hay SJ, Hislop JRG, Shanks AM (1990) North Sea Scyphomedusae: summer distribution, estimated biomass and significance particularly for 0-group gadoid fish. Neth J Sea Res 25:113–130CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Hernroth L, Gröndahl F (1983) On the biology of Aurelia aurita (L.). 1. Release and growth of Aurelia aurita (L.) ephyrae in the Gullmar Fjord, western Sweden, 1982–83. Ophelia 22:189–199CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Ishii H, Tanaka F (2001) Food and feeding of Aurelia aurita in Tokyo Bay with an analysis of stomach contents and a measurement of digestion times. Hydrobiologia 451:311–320CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Kändler R (1961) Über das Vorkommen von Fischbrut, Decapodenlarven und Medusen in der Kieler Förde. Kiel Meeresforsch 17:48–64Google Scholar
  30. Kopacz U (1994) Gelatinöses Zooplankton (Scyphomedusae, Hydromedusae, Ctenophora) und Chaetognatha im Sylter Wattgebiet. PhD thesis, University of Göttingen, GermanyGoogle Scholar
  31. Kühl H (1964) Die Scyphomedusen der Elbemündung. Veröff Inst Meeresforsch Bremerh 9:84–94Google Scholar
  32. Kühl H, Mann H (1967) Untersuchungen über das Plankton der Aussenelbe. Gewäss Abwäss 44/45:7–36Google Scholar
  33. Künne C (1952) Untersuchungen über das Grossplankton der Deutschen Bucht und im Nordsylter Wattenmeer. Helgol Wissenschaftliche Meeresunters 4:1–54CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Lynam CP, Brierley AS, Hay SJ (2004) Interannual variability in abundance of North Sea jellyfish and links to the North Atlantic oscillation. Limnol Oceanogr 49:637–643CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Lynam CP, Brierley AS, Hay SJ (2005a) Jellyfish abundance and climatic variation: contrasting responses in oceanographically distinct regions of the North Sea, and possible implications for fisheries. J Mar Biol Assoc UK 85:435–450CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Lynam CP, Brierley AS, Heath MR, Hay SJ (2005b) Evidence for impacts by jellyfish on North Sea herring recruitment. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 298:157–167CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Lynam CP, Gibbons MJ, Axelsen BE, Sparks CAJ, Coetzee J, Heywood BG, Brierley AS (2006) Jellyfish overtake fish in a heavily fished ecosystem. Curr Biol 16:R492–R493CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Martinussen MB, Båmstedt U (1995) Diet, estimated daily food ration and predator impact by the scyphozoan jellyfishes Aurelia aurita and Cyanea capillata. Ecol Fjords Coastal Waters 127–148Google Scholar
  39. Merck T (1989) Untersuchungen zur ökologischen Nische von Chrysaora hysoscella. Jahresbericht der Biologischen Anstalt Helgoland pp 53–54Google Scholar
  40. Mills CE (2001) Jellyfish blooms: are populations increasing globally in response to changing ocean conditions? Hydrobiologia 451:55–68CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Möller H (1980a) Scyphomedusae as predators and food competitors of larval fish. Rep Mar Res 28:90–100Google Scholar
  42. Möller H (1980b) Population dynamics of Aurelia aurita Medusae in Kiel Bight, Germany (FRG). Mar Biol 60:123–128CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Möller H (1980c) A summer survey of large zooplankton, particularly Scyphomedusae, in North Sea and Baltic. Rep Mar Res 28:61–68Google Scholar
  44. Möller H (1984) Data on the biology of jellyfish and youngfish in Kiel Bight. H. Möller, Kiel, GermanyGoogle Scholar
  45. Mutlu E (2001) Distribution and abundance of moon jellyfish (Aurelia aurita) and its zooplankton food in the Black Sea. Mar Biol 138:329–339CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Niermann U, Bingel F, Ergün G, Greve W (1998) Fluctuation of dominant mesozooplankton species in the Black Sea, North Sea and the Baltic Sea: is a general trend recognisable? Turkish J Zool 22:63–81Google Scholar
  47. Omori M, Ishii H, Fujinaga Ai (1995) Life history strategy of Aurelia aurita (Cnidaria, Scyphomedusae) and its impact on the zooplankton community of Tokyo Bay. ICES J Mar Sci 52:597–603CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Olesen NJ, Frandsen K, Riisgard HU (1994) Population dynamics, growth and energetics of jellyfish Aurelia aurita in a shallow fjord. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 105:9–18CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Parsons TR, Lalli CM (2002) Jellyfish population explosions: revisiting a hypothesis of possible causes. La Mer 40:111–121Google Scholar
  50. Purcell JE (1985) Predation on fish eggs and larvae by pelagic cnidarians and ctenophores. Bull Mar Sci 37:739–755Google Scholar
  51. Purcell JE (1991) A review of cnidarians and ctenophores feeding on competitors in the plankton. Hydrobiologia 216/217:335–342CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Purcell JE (1992) Effects of predation by the scyphomedusan Chrysaora quinquecirrha on zooplankton populations in Chesapeake Bay, USA. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 87:65–76CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Purcell JE (2003) Predation on zooplankton by large jellyfish, Aurelia labiata, Cyanea capillata and Aequorea aequorea, in Prince William Sound, Alaska. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 246:137–152CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Purcell JE (2005) Climate effects on formation of jellyfish and ctenophore blooms: a review. J Mar Biol Assoc UK 85:461–476CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Purcell JE, Arai MN (2001) Interactions of pelagic cnidarians and ctenophores with fish: a review. Hydrobiologia 451:27–44CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Purcell JE, Sturdevant MV (2001) Prey selection and dietary overlap among zooplanktivorous jellyfish and juvenile fishes in Prince William Sound, Alaska. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 210:67–83CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Purcell JE, Nemazie DA, Dorsey SE, Houde ED, Gamble JC (1994) Predation mortality of bay anchovy Anchoa mitchilli eggs and larvae due to scyphomedusae and ctenophores in Chesapeake Bay. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 114:47–58CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Reid PC, Edwards M, Beaugrand G, Skogen M, Stevens D (2003) Periodic changes in the zooplankton of the North Sea during the twentieth century linked to oceanic inflow. Fish Oceanogr 12:260–269CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Russel FS (1970) The medusae of the British Isles. II Pelagic Scyphozoa with a supplement to the first volume on hydromedusae. Cambridge University Press, LondonGoogle Scholar
  60. Schneider G, Behrends G (1994) Population dynamics and the trophic role of Aurelia aurita medusae in the Kiel Bight and western Baltic. ICES J Mari Sci 51:359–367CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Schneider G, Behrends G (1998) Top-down control in a neritic plankton system by Aurelia aurita medusae—a summary. Ophelia 48:71–82CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Thiel ME (1966) Untersuchungen über die Herkunft, das Auftreten, das Wachstum und die Fortpflanzung von Rhizostoma octopus im Elbmündungsgebiet. Abh Verhand Naturwissensch Ver Hamburg 10:59–88Google Scholar
  63. van der Veer HW (1985) Impact of coelenterate predation on larval plaice Pleuronectes platessa and flounder Platichthys flesus stock in the western Wadden Sea. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 25:229–238CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. van der Veer HW, Oorthuysen W (1985) Abundance, growth and food demand of the scyphomedusa Aurelia aurita in the western Wadden Sea. Neth J Sea Res 19:38–44CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. Verwey J (1942) Die Periodizität im Auftreten und die aktiven und passiven Bewegungen der Quallen. Arch Neerl Zool 6:363–468CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Xiang W, Kang B, Liu R (2005) Jellyfish blooms in the Yangtze Estuary. Science 307:41CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. Youngbluth MJ, Båmstedt U (2001) Distribution, abundance, behavior and metabolism of Periphylla periphylla, a mesopelagic coronate medusa in a Norwegian fjord. Hydrobiologia 451:321–333CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine ResearchBremerhavenGermany

Personalised recommendations