Jellyfish, also known as sea jellies, are some of the most mesmerizing creatures you could ever see floating in the water. They come in hypnotizing colors and can range in size from that of a pinhead – to as large as a human being.
While it is considered a delicacy in some countries, the jellyfish is heralded as a staple food source for many other animals. Here are some animals that consider sea jellies their tasty prey:
1. Sea Turtles
These marine turtles, which can grow as much as 6 to 9 feet, are just some of the sea creatures who love to feast on jellyfish. What makes the sea turtle successful in capturing jellyfish is its sturdy shell. It is impenetrable to most, so the jellyfish can’t sting them the way they usually do. The sea turtle’s eyes are well-protected as well, making this marine creature seemingly undefeatable in the eyes of sea jellies.
While most sea turtles consume jellyfish, the most ardent predator of jellyfish proves to be the leatherback sea turtle. As the largest sea turtle, it could weight anywhere from 200 to 750 kilograms. Because it prefers sea jellies, the leatherback sea turtle keeps the jellyfish population under safe control.
Apart from the leatherback sea turtle, 6 other species may also prey on jellyfish. They are the olive ridley sea turtle, green sea turtle, loggerhead sea turtle, flatback sea turtle, Kemp’s ridley sea turtle, and the hawksbill sea turtle.
2. Ocean Sunfish
Also known as the common mola, the ocean sunfish is one of the heftiest bony fishes on the planet. Often found in temperate and tropical zones, it comes with a flat main body that is described to be gray and rough. Because of this shape, the ocean sunfish appears to many as a “fish head flanked with a tail.”
The jellyfish is one of the ocean sunfish’s favorite prey, though it consumes crustaceans, squid, fish, and fish larvae as well.
While the ocean sunfish can fend off most of its predators, it is powerless in defeating humans, who consider this flatfish as an exotic delicacy.
The shark, which is one of the toughest water predators of all, likes to eat jellyfish as well. While there are 500 species that continue to roam the oceans and seas, the most famous types continue to be the great white shark, blue shark, tiger shark, hammerhead shark, mako shark, and thresher shark.
Since the shark is at the top of the marine food chain, it tends to ambush its unknowing prey. Unfortunately for the smaller jellyfish, it can be easily eaten in one fell swoop by this predator of jellyfish. But for the bigger varieties, the shark may latch onto the sea jelly, as it tries to make a seal with its thick lips. Once it does so, it twists its body to rip into the jellyfish’s soft exterior.
Tuna, a saltwater fish, is a sleek creature designed with two dorsal fins on its back. Currently, there is a total of 15 tuna fishes in the world. Although that is the case, the most popular prove to be the Bluefin, Albacore, Yellowfin, and Bigeye tuna fishes.
Tuna can swim fast, which explains why it’s a feared predator amongst many creatures, such as the jellyfish. The bluefin tuna is perhaps the most ardent eater of jellyfish, as it can hunt from dusk ‘til dawn.
Also known as the broadbill, this migratory and predatory creature can be found in the temperate waters of the Atlantic and the Pacific. As a favored sports fish, it is known to be elusive. At the same time, it is famous for its pointed bill and elongated body.
The swordfish, which can lose its scales and teeth by adulthood, can reach an average length of 9.8 feet. However, it can grow to as long as 14.9 feet – and even reach a weight of as much as 650 kilograms.
The swordfish can catch a jellyfish (or other prey) by using its great agility and speed. This predator of jellyfish makes use of its sword-like bill to injure the sea jelly, rendering it immobile and unable to escape its clutches.
The swordfish often lurks at the night, a time when they are more likely to scour the surface for food sources.
Adorable as it may seem, the penguin is actually a feared predator amongst the jellyfish, krill, and other sea creatures. Penguins are often found in the Southern Hemisphere. However, there is one specie, the Galapagos penguin, which can be found near the equator.
The penguin is popular for its white and dark features. It also comes with bird-like flippers that are widely used for swimming. The biggest type is the Emperor penguin, which can be a meter tall. The smallest, on the other hand, is the aptly-named little blue penguin, which measures an average of 13 inches.
The penguin spends half of its life underwater. With that being said, it catches its prey as it swims towards its preferred location.
Yes, some smaller jellyfish get eaten by their bigger counterparts. Smaller jellyfish often become the food of their bigger umbrella-shaped colleagues.
The jellyfish kill their fellow sea jellies the same way they feast on their other food sources. They use their long tentacles as some form of trip lines. Once a smaller jellyfish is caught in the said ‘line,’ the predator activates its nematocysts to stun (or even kill) the captive animal. It then flexes its tentacles to bring the food into its mouth.
The jellyfish’s swimming technique also allows it to catch more prey. As its bell-shaped head expands, it sucks more water – and the sea creatures that come with it. Once the food source is within reach, it commences with its predatory tactics once again.
The jellyfish, despite being a top marine predator, is often at the mercy of other sea animals. It is a common food source amongst many creatures, including the sea turtle, ocean sunfish, shark, tuna, swordfish, and penguin. Unfortunately for some sea jellies, they tend to get eaten by their fellow jellyfish as well.
I hope that this article on jellyfish predators was helpful. If you are interested, visit the Animal Facts Page!