Red Sea coral seen to feed on jellyfish

Nov 17, 2009 by Lin Edwards weblog
Image (c) 2009 Springer-Verlag, Coral Reefs, Volume 28, Number 4 / December, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- Corals depends on the products of photosynthetic algae for most of their food, but they also eat tiny plankton. Now, for the first time, there is evidence of a coral eating jellyfish.

Photographs of several specimens of mushroom coral (Fungia scruposa) consuming moon (Aurelia aurita) were taken by scientists G. Dishon from Bar-Ilan University, and A. Alamaru, Y. Loya and O. Bronstein from Tel Aviv University, who were diving in the coral reefs near Eilat in Israel. The team found the coral at depths of 2-20 meters, and the specimens observed to feed on the jellyfish were around 20-25 cm in diameter, while the jellyfish measured about 12 centimeters.

The jellyfish were present in large numbers due to a seasonal bloom caused by vertical nutrient upwelling during winter. Jellyfish blooms in the area are increasing in size and frequency.

Fish, turtles and sea birds are known to eat moon jellyfish, but this is the first time corals have been documented actively eating an adult jellyfish, according to team member Ada Alamaru. She described the discovery as "unique" and "amazing".

Corals feed on , which may in turn have fed on even tinier jellyfish embryos, but no evidence of this has been found. Ms Alamaru said she did not know of any previous reports of coral feeding on jellyfish. Adding jellyfish to the diet opportunistically would give the coral valuable additional protein.

Reef-building corals consist of colonies of hundreds of polyps, but the mushroom coral consists of a single, solitary, large that can grow up to 30 cm in diameter. It is not attached to the , but has very limited movement, and it is unclear how it manages to catch the jellyfish. The photographs show the jellyfish being sucked into the coral's large mouth.

The findings were published in Coral Reefs, the journal of the International Society for Reef Studies.

More information: Opportunistic feeding by the fungiid coral Fungia scruposa on the moon jellyfish Aurelia aurita, , Volume 28, Number 4 / December, 2009, DOI: 10.1007/s00338-009-0507-7

© 2009 PhysOrg.com

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plasticpower
not rated yet Nov 18, 2009
Good. Something needs to eat more jellyfish since there's so much of it everywhere now.
ArtflDgr
not rated yet Nov 18, 2009
and so, with their tweaking, they will kill jellyfish as there are "too many", and in so doing help hurt the corals. this because they have no idea of systemics. if they did, they wouldnt be tweaking to make it fit their ideal rather than the ideal that exists from nature they dont undestand