Four-Handed Box Jellyfish: Habitat, Anatomy, Diet And Other Facts

The scientific name of the four-handed box jellyfish is Chiropsalmus quadrumanous. These are the most venomous species of box jellyfish. These species are commonly found in the Gulf of Mexico, the western Atlantic Ocean, and the Pacific Ocean. These are one of the more popular species of box jellyfish due to their venomous stings.

The stings of four-handed box jellyfish are harmful to humans. They are most dangerous for kids. Their encounters should be avoided to get out of any life-threatening trouble. These toxic animals have cube-shaped bodies and 3-meter-long tentacles. The dangerous nature of these aquatic animals would have scared you too.

Have you ever heard about their bibliographical facts? Do you know about the dangers of their venomous stings? If you have the curiosity to get answers to all these intriguing questions, keep reading this article. We are going to delve deeper into the world of these amazing sea jellies.

four-handed box jellyfish

About Four-Handed Box Jellyfish – A Quick Biology Table

Here is a quick biology table about the four-handed box jellyfish:

Scientific nameChiropsalmus quadrumanous (F. Müller, 1859)
Family Chiropsalmidae
SpeciesC. quadrumanous
Habitat and geographical rangeFrom the Pacific Ocean to the Gulf of Mexico and the Western Atlantic Ocean
Lifespan1 year
DietJellyfish, worms, crustaceans, small fish, and other small prey
Size5 inches diameter 10 inches of tentacle length
WeightIt can reach up to 2 kilograms.
SynonymsTamoya quadrumana

Description and Taxonomy of Four-Handed Box Jellyfish

There is poor or little research given about the taxonomy of a four-handed box jellyfish or Chiropsalmus quadrumanous. However, its kingdom, phylum, family, class, genus, and species are given in the above-mentioned table.

In 2006, Lisa-ann Gershwin discovered that the Four-Handed Box Jellyfish from South America had a different cnidome compared to the species found in the United States. Since then, multiple studies have been conducted on this species. 

One study from 1975 used charts and statistics to show the differing cnidomes between the two regions. Despite the findings, no new taxa have been created to reflect the research. Last but not the least, the species name quadrumanous means “four-handed” in Latin, referring to the jellyfish’s four sets of tentacles. 

Physical Characteristics / Anatomy of Four-Handed Box Jellyfish

Here are a few physical characteristics of a four-handed box jellyfish taken from Project NOAA’s website:

  • The four-handed box jellyfish has a cube-shaped bell, with each side measuring up to 30 centimeters in length.
  • It has four sets of tentacles. Each set contains thousands of stinging cells called nematocysts.
  • The tentacles can grow up to 3 meters in length. These tentacles are typically light brown or yellow.
  • The jellyfish’s bell is transparent and has a blue or pink tint.
  • The four-handed box jellyfish has four clusters of eyes. Each cluster contains six eyes of varying sizes.
  • The jellyfish’s eyes are complex and can detect the color and size of objects. They can also detect light intensity and direction.
  • These sea jellies have a simple digestive system with a single opening. It serves as both the mouth and anus.
  • The jellyfish’s nervous system is decentralized, with nerve cells located throughout its body.
  • The venom of the four-handed box jellyfish is produced in specialized cells called nematocysts. These are located on its tentacles and bell.
  • The stomach is round in shape and has four pouches that connect to radial sinuses along the edges of the bell.
  • The gonads are located on either side of the radial canals.
  • The bell contains a horizontal ring of tissue called the velarium. It is located halfway up the inside.


Here are a few behaviors of four-handed box jellyfish:

  • Diurnal Migration: Four-handed box jellyfish exhibit diurnal migration behavior. This behavior involves swimming to shallow waters at night and returning to deeper waters during the day.
  • Aggregation: These jellyfish tend to aggregate in groups, especially during their breeding season. This behavior increases their chances of successful reproduction.
  • Locomotion: They use pulsing contractions of their bell to swim and move in the water column. They can also use their tentacles to steer and maneuver.
  • Avoidance Response: The four-handed box jellyfish can exhibit an avoidance response by quickly swimming away from the source of the disturbance. They do this when they feel threatened or disturbed.
  • Resting Behavior: Four-handed box jellyfish may rest during the day. They can be found on the bottom of the ocean or in other structures. They remain relatively inactive during this time.
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Hope you enjoyed reading about the unique and amazing behaviors of these four-handed sea creatures. You can read the reproductory behavior and hunting behavior in their respective sections.

Habitat, Range, and Distribution

Here are the locations where the Four-Handed Box Jellyfish can be found: 

  • East coast of North America: North and South Carolina, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Florida, Mississippi, and Texas.
  • The Caribbean
  • The Gulf of Mexico
  • Mexico
  • A disjunct population in Brazil
  • The Pacific Ocean
  • Hawaii
  • Australia

The four-handed box jellyfish typically inhabits warm waters and open seas. However, it has been known to appear in large numbers in inshore areas. This behavior is occasionally observed in areas where the jellyfish has not been previously documented.

During 1955 and 1956, a surge of Four-Handed Box Jellyfish was observed along the Texas Gulf coast. This phenomenon coincided with drought conditions and elevated salinity levels in the area. Although the jellyfish were rarely visible at the surface, small specimens were frequently caught in shrimp trawls. This event is an example of the jellyfish’s ability to adapt and thrive in changing environmental conditions. ~ source

A substantial number of four-handed box jellyfish washed up on the beach after strong gales. Additionally, many dead jellyfish could be seen floating on the surface following heavy rains. However, the jellyfish vanished when the weather conditions reverted to normal. This illustrates the jellyfish’s susceptibility to fluctuations in environmental factors.

Feeding Habits/ Diet

The four-handed box jellyfish is a carnivorous predator that feeds mainly on small fish and plankton. They use their tentacles to capture prey. After that, they paralyze them with their potent venom. 

Now, the prey will be immobilized. The four-handed jellyfish uses its tentacles to bring the prey to its mouth, located at the end of the manubrium. The jellyfish then digests the prey in its stomach. 

They can also feed on other jellyfish and crustaceans. It depends on the availability of food in their environment. The four-handed box jellyfish feeds mainly at night when their prey is more active. They use their sense organs to detect the movement of prey.

Life Cycle and Reproduction System

Four-handed box jellyfish have a complex life cycle with several distinct stages. They have asexual and sexual reproductive modes of reproduction. The adult jellyfish release sperm and eggs into the water, where fertilization occurs. The fertilized eggs develop into free-swimming planula larvae. These larvae eventually settle on a suitable substrate and develop into a polyp.

The polyp then produces buds, which develop into small jellyfish called ephyrae. These ephyrae grow into adult jellyfish over several months. The time it takes for a jellyfish to reach maturity varies depending on factors such as temperature and food availability.

During their life cycle, four-handed box jellyfish transform their tentacles. Their tentacles grow from short stumps to long, slender tentacles as the jellyfish matures. The reproductive system of the jellyfish is located on the radial canals. The radial canals are the channels that run along the edge of the bell.

The lifespan of four-handed box jellyfish

The exact or approximate lifespan of a four-handed box jellyfish is not researched well before. However, it is believed to be around one year.

Cardiovascular and Nervous Systems

Cardiovascular system

The cardiovascular system of a four-handed box jellyfish is relatively simple. It consists of a simple muscular sac that pumps blood through the body. The sac is surrounded by a network of nerves and a small amount of connective tissue. The blood of the box jellyfish is a clear fluid.

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That fluid contains various types of cells, including amoebocytes and nematocytes. Amoebocytes are involved in the immune system, while nematocytes are responsible for the box jellyfish’s venomous sting. The box jellyfish has no true heart or circulatory system, and its blood is not oxygenated.

Nervous system

The nervous system of a four-handed box jellyfish is relatively complex. It’s relatively sophisticated especially compared to other jellyfish. It has a well-developed nerve net that is connected to a ring of ganglia. Here, the ganglia act as a simple brain.

Nerve cords extend throughout the body from the ganglia. It has small sensory structures (called rhopalia) along the way. The rhopalia contain a variety of sense organs. These may be simple eyes that can detect light and dark, as well as chemical and tactile receptors. These receptors allow the box jellyfish to sense its environment and detect prey.

The box jellyfish also has a unique set of balancing organs called statocysts. These organs help it maintain its orientation in the water. The nervous system of the box jellyfish is also responsible for controlling its muscle contractions and the pulsations of its bell-shaped body.

Overall, the cardiovascular and nervous systems of the four-handed box jellyfish are both well-adapted to its predatory lifestyle and complex environment.

Importance in Ecosystem

The four-handed box jellyfish plays an important role in the marine ecosystem as both predator and prey. They feed on small fish and invertebrates as a predator. It helps to control their populations and maintain the balance of the food chain. They provide food for larger fish and sea turtles as prey.

The presence of four-handed box jellyfish in an area can also indicate the health of the ecosystem. It is because they are sensitive to changes in water quality and temperature. Additionally, the box jellyfish has been studied for its potential medicinal properties. Their venom contains compounds that may have therapeutic uses in the treatment of certain diseases.


All animals do not prey on four-handed box jellyfish. However, the following predators have been observed to feed on them:

  • Sea turtles
  • Crabs
  • Birds
  • Fish
  • Octopuses
  • Ocean sunfish
  • Triggerfish
  • Spadefish
  • Bluefin trevally
  • Yellowtail kingfish
  • Giant oceanic manta rays

These predators have developed certain adaptations to prevent themselves from the deadly stings of four-handed box jellyfish.

Relationship with Humans 

The relationship between humans and four-handed box jellyfish can be best called an enemy versus the enemy. Humans are the predators of jellyfish. Plus, people harm and kill them if they encounter a box jellyfish due to its venomous stinging nature. On the other hand, four-handed box jellyfish take humans as their predators and try to sting them

Encountering Four-Handed Box Jellyfish can result in an excruciatingly painful sting. Tragically, there exists a documented case of a young child perishing within forty minutes of being stung by jellyfish in the Gulf of Mexico. This illustrates the severity of the jellyfish’s venom and the importance of avoiding contact with it. (Source)

According to the journal article of Science Direct, we have found the following facts:

“Over five years, forty-nine people were stung by jellyfish off the Brazilian coast. Twenty of them were identifiable species. Sixteen of these stings were caused by four-handed box jellyfish. Four were diagnosed with a sting of the Portuguese man o’ war (Physalia physalis). The stings caused intense pain and systemic symptoms, and were linear in nature.” (Source)

Can a Four-Handed Box Jellyfish Sting?

Yes. A four-handed box jellyfish can sting. It’s a venomous marine animal. We know that it uses nematocysts for defense and hunting purposes. Its stinging cells can cause severe pain and tissue damage if they come into contact with human skin. 

What are the symptoms of a four-handed box jellyfish sting?

Here are a few symptoms of a four-handed box jellyfish sting:

  • Severe pain
  • Immediate tissue damage
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Headache
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Rapid heartbeat and high blood pressure
  • Sweating
  • Muscle cramps
  • Hypertension
  • Cardiovascular collapse
  • Death (in rare cases)
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The sting can also cause systemic symptoms such as anxiety, restlessness, and confusion. It is important to seek medical attention immediately if stung by a four-handed box jellyfish.

What’s the treatment of the sting of a four-handed box jellyfish?

Here are some steps for the treatment of a four-handed box jellyfish sting:

  • Get out of the water immediately and remove any tentacles that may be attached to the skin.
  • Rinse the affected area with vinegar to neutralize the venom. Try to prevent the release of any additional venom-containing nematocysts.
  • Do not rub the area or use fresh water, as this may cause further nematocyst discharge. It can increase the severity of the sting.
  • Immerse the affected area in hot water (110-113°F or 43-45°C) for at least 20-30 minutes, or until medical help arrives. This helps to reduce pain and prevent the spread of venom.
  • Seek medical attention immediately. Do not attempt to self-medicate or apply creams or lotions to the affected area.
  • If possible, bring a sample of the tentacles or jellyfish to the hospital. It helps to identify the species and guide treatment.

Remember, the sting of a four-handed box jellyfish can be potentially life-threatening. It should be taken seriously. Seek immediate medical attention in case of a sting.

How Do Four-Handed Box Jellyfish Sense Their Environment?

Four-handed box jellyfish have a primitive nervous system. They use sensory structures called rhopalia to sense their environment. Each rhopalium contains a statocyst. This is a fluid-filled chamber with a small, dense crystal called a statolith. 

As the jellyfish moves, the statolith moves within the statocyst and stimulates hair cells. It then sends signals to the jellyfish’s nervous system. The rhopalia also contain light-sensitive cells that help the jellyfish detect changes in light levels. 

It allows them to orient themselves in their environment. Additionally, the jellyfish may use their tentacles to detect chemical signals in the water. This behavior helps them locate prey or avoid predators. So, this is how the four-handed box jellyfish sense their environment. 

Are Four-Handed Box Jellyfish Endangered?

No, four-handed box jellyfish are not endangered. As per the IUCN Red List, there is currently not enough data to assess the conservation status of the four-handed box jellyfish. Their population trends and overall abundance are not well-known.

However, they can be endangered due to habitat loss, climate change, and human activity. Overfishing and accidental capture in fishing nets are also significant threats to their survival. It is essential to monitor and research their population status for their long-term survival.


What’s the definition and meaning of a four-handed box jellyfish?

A four-handed box jellyfish is a type of jellyfish belonging to the class Cubozoa. It is named for its box-like body shape and four tentacles that trail from each corner of its body. These resemble “four hands.”

What’s the dead time after getting stung by a four-handed box jellyfish?

The dead time after getting stung by a four-handed box jellyfish is only a few minutes (approximately 10 to 45 minutes). 

However, death may occur after a few minutes, a few hours, or even after days. It depends on various factors like the amount of venom, the size of the box jellyfish, and the individual’s physical condition.

Are four-handed box jellyfish immortal?

No, four-handed box jellyfish are not immortal. They have a lifespan of around one year. During this period they go through a complete life cycle from polyp to adult medusa, reproduce, and eventually die. 

However, they are capable of regenerating their tentacles if they are damaged or lost. This behavior has led to some confusion about their supposed immortality.

How fast do four-handed box jellyfish swim?

Four-handed box jellyfish are known to swim at speeds of up to 1.5 meters per second. It is equivalent to approximately 3.4 miles per hour. This makes them one of the fastest jellyfish species in the world.

However, their swimming patterns are erratic. It means they are not capable of sustained swimming over long distances. Instead, they tend to drift with the ocean currents. However, they are super fast just like Olympic swimmers.


So, these are the crazy fun facts that we have about four-handed box jellyfish. They are pretty fascinating creatures with unique appearances and impressive swimming speed. Every fact associated with these marine animals is worth learning. Hope you enjoyed this journey with us!

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