Barrel jellyfish

Barrel jellyfish

Barrel jellyfish ©

Barrel jellyfish

Scientific name: Rhizostoma pulmo
Giants of the jellyfish world, these incredible creatures are the UK’s largest jellyfish! They can grow to the size of dustbin lids – giving them their other common name: dustbin-lid jellyfish.

Species information


Bell: Up to 90cm across Weight: Up to 35kg

Conservation status


When to see

May to October


These large jellyfish swarm in warmer coastal waters in late spring and often wash up on our beaches in May or June, sometimes in their hundreds. Their favourite meal is plankton, which can be found in shallow waters. This is what often causes them to wash up, as they underestimate their size. They have eight frilly arms, which contain their small stinging tentacles and surround hundreds of little mouths! The sting of the barrel jellyfish is not normally harmful to humans, though if you find one on the beach it's best not to handle it as they can still sting when dead.

How to identify

A large translucent jellyfish with a huge mushroom shaped bell and a bunch of 8 frilly tentacles below. They don't have marginal tentacles, but do have a violet fringe around the bell which contains sense organs. They are often found washed up on beaches in May and June.


Common off Southern and Western coasts of Britain in summer months.

Did you know?

Barrel jellyfish are the favourite food of leatherback turtles, the world's largest sea turtle.


Matt Slater