Dustbin lid jellyfish (Rhizostoma octopus)

Distribution data supplied by the Ocean Biodiversity Information System (OBIS). To interrogate UK data visit the NBN Atlas.Map Help



Rhizostoma octopus is one of the largest jellyfish to inhabit UK waters. It has a smooth and somewhat flattened shaped umbrella (or bell) that can reach 90 cm in diameter. It is generally white or bluish in colour but may be red, brown, or grey. The blue colouration of the ring muscle of the dorsal umbrella can help differentiate it from closely related species. Beneath the umbrella is a manubrium that bears four pairs of oral arms. There are 16 three-winged scapulets at the upper part of these arms. The oral arms are longer than the bell diameter and end with three-winged bulbs that are wider at their end. There are 112 rounded lobes (lappets) around the margin of the umbrella, and the inner veil bears six pairs of velar lappets per octant. There are no marginal tentacles.

Recorded distribution in Britain and Ireland

Recorded around all coasts of the British Isles but reported to aggregate in Carmarthen Bay, Tremadoc Bay and Rosslare.

Global distribution

Recorded along the Atlantic coasts of Europe from the south coasts of Sweden, the coasts of Denmark to the north coasts of Germany, Netherlands and Belgium, and along the north and west coasts of France.


Rhizostoma octopus is a pelagic species. It is known to aggregate in bay areas but it has also been observed in open water.

Depth range

No information found

Identifying features

  • Smooth slightly flattened umbrella reaching up to 90 cm in diameter.
  • Eight oral arms which are longer than the diameter of the umbrella.
  • Upper section of oral arms is shorter than the three-winged terminating bulbs.
  • The bulbs of the oral arms are wider distally.
  • Up to 112 marginal lappets surrounding the bell margin.
  • No marginal tentacles.

Additional information

Rhizostoma octopus can be mistaken for Rhizostoma pulmo. Rhizostoma octopus has 112 marginal lappets; the proximal section of the oral arms is shorter than the ending bulb section and the bulb appendages are widest at their ends. Whereas, Rhizostoma pulmo has 96 marginal lappets; the proximal section of its oral arms is longer than the ending bulb section and the bulb appendages are widest at their forepart.

The lifecycle of Rhizostoma octopus includes strobilation (a form of asexual reproduction) whereby immature medusae (juveniles) are produced.  This strobilation can be activated by a 5°C increase or decrease in temperature and it is thought to occurs twice annually, in autumn and in spring.  The sex of Rhizostoma octopus can be determined by the colouration of the gonads.  Female gonads appear brown whereas, male gonads appear blue. This species is eaten by sea turtles and is commonly known to host Merlangius merlangus (whiting) between the oral arms.

Listed by

- none -


  1. Jarms, G., Morandini, A.C. & Haeckel, E., 2019. World Atlas of Jellyfish: Scyphozoa Except Stauromedusae. München: Dölling und Galitz Verlag.

  2. O'Connor, B. & McGrath, D., 1978. The occurrence of the scyphozoan Rhizostoma octopus (L.) around the Irish coast in 1976. Irish Naturalists' Journal, 19, 261-263.

  3. Russell, F.S., 1970. The medusae of the British Isles. Vol II - Pelagic Scyphozoa, with a supplement to the first volume on hydromedusae. Cambridge University Press

  4. Glynn, F., Houghton, J.D.R. & Provan, J., 2015. Population genetic analyses reveal distinct geographical blooms of the jellyfish Rhizostoma octopus (Scyphozoa). Biological Journal of the Linnean Society, 116 (3), 582-592. DOI https://doi.org/10.1111/bij.12614
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  6. Houghton, J.D.R., Doyle, T.K., Davenport, J. & Hays, G.C., 2006. Developing a simple, rapid method for identifying and monitoring jellyfish aggregations from the air. Marine Ecology Progress Series, 314, 159-170. DOI http://doi.org/10.3354/meps314159
  7. Lilley, M.K.S., Houghton, J.D.R. & Hays, G.C., 2009. Distribution, extent of inter-annual variability and diet of the bloom-forming jellyfish Rhizostoma in European waters. Journal of the Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom, 89 (1), 39-48. DOI https://doi.org/10.1017/S0025315408002439


  1. NBN (National Biodiversity Network) Atlas. Available from: https://www.nbnatlas.org.

  2. OBIS (Ocean Biodiversity Information System),  2024. Global map of species distribution using gridded data. Available from: Ocean Biogeographic Information System. www.iobis.org. Accessed: 2024-05-18


This review can be cited as:

Nash, R.A., 2021. Rhizostoma octopus Dustbin lid jellyfish. In Tyler-Walters H. and Hiscock K. Marine Life Information Network: Biology and Sensitivity Key Information Reviews, [on-line]. Plymouth: Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom. [cited 18-05-2024]. Available from: https://www.marlin.ac.uk/species/detail/2330

Last Updated: 14/01/2021