information on the biology of species and the ecology of habitats found around the coasts and seas of the British Isles

Sea gooseberry (Pleurobrachia pileus)

Distribution data supplied by the Ocean Biogeographic Information System (OBIS). To interrogate UK data visit the NBN Atlas.
Only coastal and marine records shown



Pleurobrachia pileus is a small, oval to spherical comb jelly, up to 1-2.5 cm high with two long fishing tentacles. The fishing tentacles are up to 15-20 times the length of the body (up to 50 cm long), bear lateral filaments, and can be completely retracted into the body. It swims with eight longitudinal combs, arranged in four paired rows, that give the comb jellies (ctenophores) their characteristic shimmering appearance. These combs consist of plates of transverse rows of hairs that beat in waves downwards, which produces the shimmering effect. These plates are phosphorescent at night. The gut may bear some colour. Newly hatched specimens are pear-shaped and bear only short rows of combs.

Recorded distribution in Britain and Ireland

Common in open water all around Britain and Ireland, especially in the summer.

Global distribution



Pelagic in coastal waters but may sometimes become trapped in intertidal pools.

Depth range


Identifying features

  • Transparent ovoid to spherical body 1-2.5 cm high.
  • Radially symmetrical with secondary bilateral symmetry.
  • Eight longitudinal rows of combs, arranged in four paired rows.
  • Two fishing tentacles up to 50 cm long. Lateral filaments of fishing tentacles similar.

Additional information

Pleurobrachia pileus is a carnivore, preying on zooplankton, especially copepods. In British waters it is most abundant in summer and late autumn (Fish & Fish, 1996).

Listed by

- none -

Further information sources

Search on:


  1. Fish, J.D. & Fish, S., 1996. A student's guide to the seashore. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

  2. Gibson, R., Hextall, B. & Rogers, A., 2001. Photographic guide to the sea and seashore life of Britain and north-west Europe. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

  3. Greve, W., 1975. Ctenophora. ICES Plankton Identification Leaflets, 146.

  4. Hayward, P., Nelson-Smith, T. & Shields, C. 1996. Collins pocket guide. Sea shore of Britain and northern Europe. London: HarperCollins.

  5. National Biodiversity Network (NBN) Atlas website. Available from:  Accessed 01 April 2017


This review can be cited as:

Neal, K.J. 2005. Pleurobrachia pileus Sea gooseberry. In Tyler-Walters H. and Hiscock K. (eds) Marine Life Information Network: Biology and Sensitivity Key Information Reviews, [on-line]. Plymouth: Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom. [cited 15-08-2018]. Available from:

Last Updated: 23/05/2005