A genetically tractable jellyfish model for systems and evolutionary neuroscience

Brandon Weissbourd*, Tsuyoshi Momose, Aditya Nair, Ann Kennedy, Bridgett Hunt, David J. Anderson*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


Jellyfish are radially symmetric organisms without a brain that arose more than 500 million years ago. They achieve organismal behaviors through coordinated interactions between autonomously functioning body parts. Jellyfish neurons have been studied electrophysiologically, but not at the systems level. We introduce Clytia hemisphaerica as a transparent, genetically tractable jellyfish model for systems and evolutionary neuroscience. We generate stable F1 transgenic lines for cell-type-specific conditional ablation and whole-organism GCaMP imaging. Using these tools and computational analyses, we find that an apparently diffuse network of RFamide-expressing umbrellar neurons is functionally subdivided into a series of spatially localized subassemblies whose synchronous activation controls directional food transfer from the tentacles to the mouth. These data reveal an unanticipated degree of structured neural organization in this species. Clytia affords a platform for systems-level studies of neural function, behavior, and evolution within a clade of marine organisms with growing ecological and economic importance.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)5854-5868.e20
Issue number24
StatePublished - Nov 24 2021


  • Clytia
  • GCaMP
  • behavior
  • cnidarian
  • imaging
  • jellyfish
  • nerve net
  • neuropeptide
  • neuroscience
  • transgenesis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology


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