Ah, jellyfish. Fish made of jelly that aren’t really “fish” at all.
I think most people can appreciate the unique beauty of jellyfish on TV or from behind glass, but not many people seek to find themselves inside a bloom any time soon. I can say from personal experience that a bloom of jellyfish can be an incredible, yet painful, situation to find yourself in.
But some people (cough-my roommate-cough) may think they aren’t important and wonder why this seemingly useless species still exists. That’s alright! Hopefully this article will give you some new and valuable insight.
So here’s a few ways these jelly creatures contribute to their marine society:
- They are incredibly important food. It was previously thought that when jellyfish died, they sank to form “jelly-lakes” and slowly degrade, but scientists have since found evidence to show otherwise! Researchers at the University of Hawai’i have found that when jellyfish die and fall to the ocean floor, (referred to as a “jellyfish fall” or “jelly-fall”) they are almost immediately consumed by many different species of ocean floor scavengers. Gelatinous material is extremely important to deep sea food webs, thanks jellyfish!
- They provide homes for baby fish! Similarly to how sea anemones hide clownfish, the tentacles of jellyfish protect young fish of poison-immune species until they are large enough to fend for themselves. So essentially jellyfish are kind of like the sweet old nurturing nannies of the ocean.
- They provide underwater fertilizer. Jellyfish don’t have a separate hole to “do their business” like most animals do – one hole takes food in, and the same hole expels waste out. It might seem nasty, but it’s actually a pretty smart use of limited resources. That waste becomes fertilizer for ocean plants, which boosts the ecosystem by providing countless animals with food.
- They can help slow down climate change! Through carbon sequestration – or trapping carbon-based greenhouse gases – jellyfish can protect the ozone layer of our atmosphere and slow the process of the greenhouse effect. And it isn’t only jellyfish that contribute to carbon sequestration, most marine life (especially marine plants) have a powerful role in the makeup of the atmosphere. Kind of weird to think about, huh? As a species, their health affects our health… I think that is a huge reason to be thankful for jellyfish this thanksgiving!
The ocean can be a scary and mysterious place to most people. It’s deep, dark, and full of strange creatures – many of them have never been seen. You don’t have to explore the deep sea to be an advocate for all the mysterious animals it contains… but you can if you want to! It’s up to you. The ocean lies in your hands, just don’t pull a Marlin/Dory move and swim into a bloom while you’re down there!
Peace and love,
Scientific Literature (great for doing research/writing papers!)