Cassiosomes are stinging-cell structures in the mucus of the upside-down jellyfish Cassiopea xamachana

Cheryl L. Ames, Anna M.L. Klompen, Krishna Badhiwala, Kade Muffett, Abigail J. Reft, Mehr Kumar, Jennie D. Janssen, Janna N. Schultzhaus, Lauren D. Field, Megan E. Muroski, Nick Bezio, Jacob T. Robinson, Dagmar H. Leary, Paulyn Cartwright, Allen G. Collins, Gary J. Vora

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Citations (Scopus)


Snorkelers in mangrove forest waters inhabited by the upside-down jellyfish Cassiopea xamachana report discomfort due to a sensation known as stinging water, the cause of which is unknown. Using a combination of histology, microscopy, microfluidics, videography, molecular biology, and mass spectrometry-based proteomics, we describe C. xamachana stinging-cell structures that we term cassiosomes. These structures are released within C. xamachana mucus and are capable of killing prey. Cassiosomes consist of an outer epithelial layer mainly composed of nematocytes surrounding a core filled by endosymbiotic dinoflagellates hosted within amoebocytes and presumptive mesoglea. Furthermore, we report cassiosome structures in four additional jellyfish species in the same taxonomic group as C. xamachana (Class Scyphozoa; Order Rhizostomeae), categorized as either motile (ciliated) or nonmotile types. This inaugural study provides a qualitative assessment of the stinging contents of C. xamachana mucus and implicates mucus containing cassiosomes and free intact nematocytes as the cause of stinging water.

Original languageEnglish
Article number67
JournalCommunications Biology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2020 Dec 1


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