The complicated alternation of generations seen in such a form as Aurelia does not occur in the more primitive genera.
In the first place, we find in this group two distinct types of person or individual, the polyp and the medusa (qq.v.), each capable of a wide range of variations; and when both polyp and medusa occur in the life-cycle of the same species, as is frequently the case, the result is an alternation of generations of a type peculiarly characteristic of the class.
In such cases the original parent-actinula does not itself become a medusa, but remains arrested in development and ultimately dies off, so that a true alternation of generations is brought about.
Altogether it is difficult on morphological grounds to resist the conclusion that Florideae present the same fundamental phenomenon of alternation of generations as prevails in the higher plants.
For a discussion of this view, which regards the alternation of generations in Pteridophytes as antithetic and the two generations as not homologous with one another, reference may be made to the works of Celakovsky and Bower.
The development from the egg may be direct, or may take place with an alternation of generations (metagenesis), in which a non-sexual individual, the so-called scyphistoma or scyphopolyp, produces by budding the sexual medusae.
The polyp of the Leptolinae has reached the limit of its individual development and is incapable of becoming itself a medusa, but only produces medusa-buds; hence a true alternation of generations is produced.
The views of Adler as to the alternation of generations of numerous gall-flies have been fully confirmed, it having been ascertained by direct observation that the galls and the insects produced from them in one generation are entirely different from the next generation; and it has also been rendered certain that frequently one of the alternate generations is parthenogenetic, no males being produced.
The life-cycle of the Leptolinae consists of an alternation of generations in which non-sexual individuals, polyps, produce by budding sexual individuals, medusae, which give rise by the sexual process to the non-sexual polyps again, so completing the cycle.
It is commonly assumed that the Trachylinae are forms which have lost the alternation of generations possessed by them ancestrally, through secondary simplification of the life-cycle.