Scientists Just Found Out That Corals Eat Jellyfish

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There are some corals in the Mediterranean sea that catch and then snack on jellyfish. But until now, scientists had no idea that corals include jellyfish in their diet. The discovery means that scientists have to rethink everything they knew about the corals’ diet.

Researchers from the University of Edinburgh and other institutes filmed the moment when corals began to capture and eat a jellyfish. But they also saw that to eat the jellyfish; corals cooperate to catch their food.

The study is authored by Luigi Musco, Tomás Vega Fernández, Erik Caroselli, John Murray Roberts and Fabio Badalamenti and is titled “Protocooperation among small polyps allows the coral Astroides calycularis to prey on large jellyfish.” The findings were published in the journal Ecology.

A Fascinating Observation

The team of researchers observed that just off the coast of Sicily, jellyfish got stuck to the cliffs and caves underwater. Close to where the jellyfish were, a type of coral called Astroides calycularis caught the stuck prey. Usually, corals feed on plankton (tiny marine creatures), not on large prey like these jellyfish.

When the jellyfish try to swim away, they touch other corals that immediately react and latch onto the prey. In a common effort, the bright orange coral shares a large meal.

The jellyfish in the photograph is called Pelagia noctiluca – or the mauve stinger, which is the one that stings people who swim in the Mediterranean.

According to the research Director at the Italian National Research Council and Honorary Professor at the University of Edinburgh – Fabio Badalamenti, they knew about both the coral and the jellyfish species, but they “had no idea that the coral could catch and eat these jellyfish.”

Professor Murray Roberts (School of GeoSciences, University of Edinburgh) concludes that “this is a really fascinating observation,” explaining that until now, it was thought that “corals don’t eat jellyfish, but these results show that we need to keep both our eyes and minds open to new discoveries.”

Rex Austin

Rex Austinwas born and raised in Thunder Bay Ontario on the shores of Lake Superior. Apart from running his own podcast (Ice Fishing And Other “Cool” Things), he spends his time canoeing and backpacking in Northern Ontario.. As a journalist Rex has published stories for Global News (Thunder Bay) we well as Buzz Feed and Joystiq. As a contributor to Great Lakes Ledger, Rex most covers science and health stories. Contact Rexhere