Animals that eat jellyfish include sea turtles, tuna, swordfish, ocean sunfish, bearded goby, whale sharks, megamouth sharks, foxes, fulmars, penguins, and even other jellyfish.
For decades, Jellyfish have been regarded as a generally nutrient-poor food source. Their bodies are over 90% water. That’s hardly a meal for a predator.
That is why scientists and researchers have always thought that these bizarre creatures play a minimal role in the marine food web.
However, modern advancements in research have shown that that is not the full story. Surprisingly, many marine species regard jellyfish as a food source with some even actively hunting them.
What Eats Jellyfish?
Here is a list of 11 animals that include jellyfish in their diet.
1. Bearded Goby
Coming in at just 6 inches long, these tiny fish play a huge role in their native habitat off the coast of Namibia in Africa.
Decades of overfishing in the area collapsed the once biodiverse African coast. This led to an explosion in jellyfish populations.
Many experts deemed this a dead-end situation until they discovered these gobies adapted into consuming jellyfish. This stabilized the ecosystem bringing hope for to the future of the area’s ecosystem.
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!
Sea birds also have jellyfish on the menu. Fulmars in particular are one of the many that would gladly feast on any unfortunate jellyfish it may see.
These birds have a diet that consists of small 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. They then dive after the unfortunate fish—or jellyfish in this case.
There are over 2000 species of jellyfish in the world. They’re not picky eaters so when they find another jellyfish, they’ll go ahead and consume it!
Jellyfish don’t hunt nor ambush their prey. They lack a brain for this kind of behavior.
Read More: List of Animals Without a Brain
Rather, they catch prey when food comes into contact with their stingers. These stingers paralyze prey which makes it easier for them to digest.
5. Megamouth Sharks
Next on the list is one of the ocean’s most elusive creatures: the Megamouth Shark.
This aptly-named shark is actually 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 then uses its tiny teeth to trap food inside its mouth like a sieve.
These sharks are mostly found in the tropical waters but live deep down and can weigh up to 750kg.
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 as well as 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.
Related Article: 15 Birds that Look Like Penguins
6. Ocean Sunfish
Also known as the Mola Mola, this fish is one of the known sea creatures that frequently hunt for jellyfish.
This bony fish is known for its unusual shape. They’re round and almost flat with no typical tail like most other fish. They also have huge fins found at the rear part of their body.
Jellyfish are known to be a major part of the Mola Mola’s diet. However, recent study shows that they are a generalist predator with a varied diet.
8. 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 species of sea turtles are omnivorous often eating seagrass, squids, shrimps, and jellyfish.
In fact, some species have developed fleshy spikes in their throats that trap jellyfish inside. This is also the reason why plastic pollution is such a danger for these gentle creatures.
Another easily recognizable fish is 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 one of 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 mostly on smaller fish, crustaceans, and the occasional jellyfish. Experts say that their swords are likely not used as spears.
Like the Swordfish, tuna fish also use their speed and agility to hunt smaller prey. There are several species of tuna that differ in size and shape.
They are prized worldwide for their taste. Because of this some species are either protected or heavily controlled by governing bodies worldwide.
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.
11. Whale Sharks
Last but certainly not least is the Whale Shark. These gentle giants 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. They can be found in tropical waters where they are sometimes spotted when feeding.
Though once thought of as an insignificant part of the overall marine ecosystems, recent advancements in research have shown that it simply isn’t true.
Many species rely on jellyfish as a food source despite it seeming unappealing to predators. This just goes to show that we still know so little about our world and there are more things to find and discover.
Stuart is the editor of Fauna Facts. He edits our writers’ work as well as contributing his own content. Stuart is passionate about sustainable farming and animal welfare and has written extensively on cows and geese for the site.