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Jellyfish (also known as jellies or sea jellies or Medusozoa) are free-swimming members of the phylum Cnidaria. Jellyfish have several different morphologies that represent several different cnidarian classes including the Scyphozoa (over 200 species), Staurozoa (about 50 species), Cubozoa (about 20 species), and Hydrozoa (about 1000–1500 species that make jellyfish and many more that do not). Medusais another word for jellyfish, and refers to any free-swimming jellyfish stages in the phylum Cnidaria.
Jellyfish are found in every ocean, from the surface to the deep sea. Some hydrozoan jellyfish, or hydromedusae, are also found in fresh water; freshwater species are less than an inch (25 mm) in diameter, are colorless and do not sting. These are the large, often colorful, jellyfish that are common in coastal zones worldwide. Scientists have evidence of Jellyfish roaming the seas for about 500 million years.
In its broadest sense, the term jellyfish also generally refers to members of the phylum Ctenophora. Although not closely related to cnidarian jellyfish, ctenophores are also free-swimming planktonic carnivores, are generally transparent or translucent, and exist in shallow to deep portions of all the world’s oceans.
Alternative names for groups of jellyfish are scyphomedusae, stauromedusae, cubomedusae, and hydromedusae. These may relate to an entire order or class.