Jellyfishes are transparent, and almost 95% of their body composition is water. This near-perfect evolutionary combo helps provides them with a smooth and perfect interflow with their mostly marine background. If they can’t see you, they certainly can’t touch you!
Despite this impressive aquatic camouflage however, some determined and sharp-sighted species are still able to figure out the ‘smacks’ from the currents and appetizingly shred on their gelatinously made tissues.
These determined creatures are called the jellyfish predators and this article is all about them.
What eats jellyfish?
A variety of lifeforms in the wild eat jellyfishes. Fishes like sunfish, whale shark, chum salmon and tuna fish eat jellyfishes.
Reptiles like the leatherback and hawkbill turtles eat jellyfishes.
Mammals like red tailed foxes and penguins consume jellyfishes that become washed up ashore and even members of the jellyfish group such as other jellyfishes, anemones and small molluscs eat jellyfishes.
Dolphins are known to play frisbee with jellyfishes but they have never been observed to eat them. The frisbee activity sometimes result in the death of the jellyfish, and thus, providing other predators with the opportunity to pounce of free meal.
The ‘frisbee’ manhandled jelly toys are often left dead on sea waters after the intense and unwanted rough play.
The Main Predators of jellyfishes
By far, it appears that the main predators of jellyfishes are other jellyfishes (often larger than themselves) and the leatherback sea turtle. The latter has been documented on numerous occasions munching and eating on plastics bags it mistook for jellyfishes — to show you how frequently and desperately they rely on jellyfish populations for their sustenance.
A popular research has even estimated that more than one-half of the entire population of aquatic turtles have consumed plastic materials deposited offshore at some point in their lives.
This drew the early conclusions that a lot of sea turtles must have met with their early demise from eating plastic in the wild, since another research has convincingly showed that only 14 pieces of plastic is required to cause complications as severe as death in turtles.
Other Less Pronounced Predators
Other animals in the marine and fresh water environments and even some terrestrial animals that have been observed to prey of jellyfishes usually do so when their primary source of food becomes greatly dwindled, either by seasonality or effect of a permanent climate change.
These carnivores basically have no choice but to resort to other sustainable lifeforms within their habitat — including the essence of a gelatinous blob.
Most animals that rely primarily on jellyfishes for sustenaces usually have internal adaptations to prevent internal stinging from their tentacles or to bypass the noxious and distasteful effects of their venoms.
Some predators like the sea slugs and even other relatives of the jellyfish family i.e some cnidarians are capable of commandeers or seizing the stinging cells on the jellyfish tentacles to add to their own defense repertoire.
There are other specific group of fishes often adolescence but occasionally smaller adults, that share a symbiotic relationship with jelly fishes. They live almost exclusively underneath and among the tentacles of larger species like the compass and cannonball jellyfishes, and derive most of their sustenance by sharing the food caught by the jellies’ and also by nibbling from their gonad tissues which is rich in protein.
These animals are usually immune to the venoms produced by the tentacles of these jellies and so can live with them without any problems.
Some animals like the longnose spider crab even live inside of the jellyfish and directly feasts on whatever food the animal consumes and also on its tasty internal tissues.
Nutrition of jellyfishes
Jelly fishes are generally low in nutritional contents, so most of the animals that depend on them as a means or alternative means of sustenance must also look for other dinners to supplement. The leatherback turtle seem to break this rule quite adamantly. It has a specially made metabolic system to relate greatly with such low calorie diet.
But what the jelly fishes lack for in nutritional contents, they make up for in the multitudes of swarms they appear in and ease of their capture. While jelly fishes do have to a little extent, some control over their locomotion, they are mostly always at the mercy of marine currents and savage drifts.
Jelly fishes come in different varieties, from ones that are barely one millimeter in bell disk diameter to species that are recognized as the longest living animals currently in existence: the lions mane jelly fish at 36.5 meters (or 119ft 9 in) long. Jellyfishes like the nomura’s jelly fishes can reach up to 200 kg (440 lb) in autumn weight with a frequent average of 150 kg (330 lb). This variation in size and weight of jelly fihes make them siitable diest for a wide rage of aquatic species.
Predators of Jelly fishes
- Whale shark
- Ocean sunfish
- Grey triggerfish
- Sword fish
- Chum Salmon
- Spiny dogfish
- Butter fish
- Bearded goby
- Lesser-spotted dogfish
- Poor cod
- Gray gurnard
- Silk head fish
- Round head rat tail fish
- Leather back turtle
- Hawksbill turtle
Other Sea Creatures
- Sea slugs
- Small Molluscs
- Arrow crabs
- Hermit crabs
- Humpback whales
- Other jellyfishes
- Sea spiders
- Blue swimmer crabs
Jellyfish Adaptations to Predation
Jellyfishes can range from invincibly tiny to majestically mammoth in sizes but their overall body structures have one thing in common. All of them are fragile gelatinous zooplankton with bodies that are delicate and easily destroyed or damaged.
A jellyfish subject to predation will try virtually everything within its power to protect its delicate body, especially given the fact that are slow moving creatures that mostly rely on drift and ocean currents for their locomotion.
Below are some of the adaptations of jellyfishes to marine predation.
- Jellyfishes have tentacles lined generously with stinging cells for paralyzing or killing their preys using neurotoxic venoms delivered into their bodies. They use these tentacles (features analogous to legs in terrestrial animals) to prey on fishes and other organism like tiny darts they consume, but they can also use them as a means of defense. One important thing to note however is that not all species of jellyfishes have venoms in the nematocysts lined within the tentacles.
- Jellyfishes, especially the smaller species and those that have no colorations on their bodies, are often translucent. They blend perfectly well with the surrounding waters and are very difficult to spot by predators having weak to normal eye sight.
- The larva stage of some jellyfish species produce venoms on their bodies that make predators spit them out immediately after they consume them.
- Species that produce bioluminescence can uses this mechanism to advertise their toxic nature or distastefulness to predators. [R]
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Singichetti, B. 2011. “Periphylla periphylla” (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed July 15, 2020 at https://animaldiversity.org/accounts/Periphylla_periphylla/
Cite this Article ” (APA Format)
Bunu. M. (2020, July 15). Jellyfish Predators: What eats jellyfish? (with pictures). Retrieved from http://emborawild.com/what-eats-jellyfish/