What Animals Eat Jellyfish?

Written by: Annemarie Dutton
Last updated on:

The jellyfish is a pelagic “fish” that lives in the open ocean from the tropics to the Arctic Ocean. Although it can move its umbrella rhythmically, it practically lives at the mercy of ocean currents. 

There are more than 2,000 different types of jellyfish around the world. 

Anyone who has seen a jellyfish’s dome-shaped body pulsating through the water, tentacles dangling behind, can testify that they are both an intimidating and intriguing sight.

This article will answer a question on many people’s lips. “What animals eat jellyfish?”

Nutritional Value Of Jellyfish

For decades, Jellyfish have been regarded as a generally nutrient-poor food source. Since jellyfish are 95% water, predators have to consume them in large amounts to get higher dietary nutrition.

Jellyfish are generally low in nutritional contents, so most animals that depend on them as a means or alternative means of sustenance must also look for other dinners to supplement. 

The leatherback turtle seems to break this rule quite adamantly. It has a specially made metabolic system to relate significantly to such a low-calorie diet.

Are Jellyfish Poisonous?

Jellyfish have no brain, which causes a jellyfish to sting at the slightest sense of danger. Jellyfish stings can be excruciating and sometimes dangerous to humans. However, jellyfish do not knowingly attack humans.

A jellyfish has 3 million stinging cells for every centimeter of its tentacle. When the stinging cells contact another animal or human’s skin, it releases poison.

Overall, the dome area of the body is safe to eat.

The Main Predators Of Jellyfish

A variety of lifeforms in the wild eat jellyfish. Fish, mammals, reptiles, birds, other jellyfish, and even humans prey on jellyfish.

However, the main predator of jellyfish is other jellyfish and the leatherback sea turtle.

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What Kinds Of Fish Eat Jellyfish?

Megamouth Sharks

One of the ocean’s most elusive creatures is the megamouth sharks.  This aptly-named shark is not as intimidating as it looks. It is what’s known as a planktivore which means it eats mostly plankton.

It uses its enormous mouth to scoop in water and, with it, plankton and jellyfish. It uses its tiny teeth to trap food inside its mouth like a sieve.

These sharks are primarily found in the tropical waters but live deep down and weigh up to 750kg.

Ocean Sunfish

Also known as the Mola Mola, this fish is one known sea creature that frequently hunts for jellyfish.

This bony fish is known for its unusual, almost flat, with no typical tail shape, and it also has hue fins found at the rear part of its body.

Jellyfish constitute a significant part of Mola Mola’s diet. 

Swordfish

Another easily recognizable fish are the mighty Swordfish. Named after the long saber-like protrusions on their snout, these fish are found in tropical and temperate regions of the world’s oceans.

They are among the fastest and most agile swimmers, reaching up to 22 mph. Scientists believe that they use their long pointy “swords” to scratch and injure their prey to make them easier to catch.

Swordfish feed primarily on smaller fish, crustaceans, and the occasional jellyfish. Experts say that their swords are likely not used as spears.

Tuna

Like the Swordfish, tuna fish also use their speed and agility for hunting smaller prey. Several species of tuna differ in size and shape.

They are prized worldwide for their taste. They prefer temperate to tropical regions of all the world’s oceans, both in the northern and southern hemispheres. 

They prey on jellyfish, smaller fish, mollusks, and crustaceans. 

Whale Shark

Whale sharks are gentle giants and are some of the biggest creatures in the current era.

They span a whopping 48 ft for females and 30 ft for males.

Like the Megamouth Shark, Whale Sharks are filter feeders. They use their wide mouths to suck in water and filter food using their teeth.

They feed on planktons, krill, and jellyfish, among other sea creatures. Whale sharks live in tropical waters, where they are sometimes spotted when feeding. 

Mammals That Eat Jellyfish

Red-tailed Foxes

This might come as a surprise to some, but red-tailed foxes do consume jellyfish on occasion.  

Though not an active predator of jellyfish, foxes still eat jellyfish that wash up on the shores. 

Foxes are opportunistic scavengers as well as active predators.  Red-tailed foxes are known to be non-picky eaters. They snack on almost anything they can hunt or scavenge.

 A dead jellyfish washed up on the shore is just a meal, as far as they are concerned!

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What Kind of Reptiles Eat Jellyfish?

Sea Turtles

Sea turtles are perhaps the most well-known animals that eat jellyfish. These marine reptiles are known for their distinctive look and gentle nature.

They are also one of the most threatened species with worldwide conservation efforts in effect.

Most sea turtles are omnivorous, often eating seagrass, squids, shrimps, and jellyfish.

Some species have developed fleshy spikes in their throats that trap jellyfish inside.

Can Birds Eat Jellyfish?

Sea birds such as the albatross and fulmar eat jellyfish by pecking their inner tissues to avoid their tentacles. 

Fulmars

Sea birds also have jellyfish on the menu. Fulmars, in particular, are one of the many that would gladly feast on any unfortunate jellyfish they may see.

These birds have a diet that consists of tiny organisms like fish, sea worms, squid, and other small sea creatures.

They are also known to feed on carrion meat when available.

They hunt by flying high up while scouting for prey and then dive down to the unfortunate jellyfish below.

Penguins

With their “tuxedo” looking feathers, these adorable sea birds are one of the few predators that actively hunt jellyfish. Found in the Southern Hemisphere, mainly near the polar region, these flightless birds are masters of the sea.

They use their powerful fins to “fly” underwater. They are also very agile swimmers, which aid them in hunting and escaping predators.

A recent study revealed that they consume significant amounts of jellyfish, much to experts’ surprise. Scientists are still unsure why this is the case.

Can Humans Eat Jellyfish?

Some species of jellyfish are suitable for human consumption and are used as a source of food and as an ingredient in various dishes. Edible jellyfish is a seafood that is harvested and consumed in several East and Southeast Asian countries, and in some Asian countries, it is considered a delicacy.

Some commercially processed edible jellyfish are purveyed in dried sheets. Producing dehydrated jellyfish typically includes the removal of the tentacles before drying because the upper dome area of the marine animal is the part commonly used for cooking.

Conclusion

Various life forms eat jellyfish, from other jellyfish to humans and from, birds to reptiles.  Many species rely on jellyfish as a good source despite seeming unappealing to predators.

This shows that we still know so little about our world, and there are more things out there to discover.

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