Dead Jellyfish Are Much More Important Than We Thought

Written by on October 22, 2014 in Jellyfish, Marine Life
Lion's mane jellyfish. Photo credit: Kip Evans, NOAA.

Lion’s mane jellyfish. Photo credit: Kip Evans, NOAA.

New research shows that, unlike previously thought, dead jellyfish play a big role in the deep-sea food chain.

Researchers from the UK, Norway, and Hawaii studied how scavengers responded to jellyfish and fish baits in the deep sea off Norway in areas where jellyfish blooms are known to occur near the surface. The experiments revealed that when the jellyfish die and sink to the seabed they were rapidly consumed by scavengers.

“In recent years, anecdotal studies have suggested that when jellyfish blooms die off, massive quantities of the creatures can sink to the ocean floor to form ‘jelly-lakes’, which are not eaten then simply rot, depleting the oxygen on the ocean floor and repelling fish and other sea creatures,” study author Daniel Jones from the National Oceanography Centre explained in a news release. “However, as our video footage on YouTube indicates, it seems that ‘jelly-lakes’ may be the exception rather than the rule and that jellyfish carcasses are consumed at speed by a host of deep-sea scavengers such as hagfish and crabs.”

This research also prompted a “fresh look” at the role jellyfish play in the global carbon cycle. Previously, researchers believed that when jellyfish died and sank to the seafloor they were taken out of the cycle. This research reveals, however, that the carbon is retained in deep-sea food web. The researchers note that this is particularly important as warming oceans may result in a decrease in other deep-sea food sources.

You can see the scavengers devouring lion’s mane jellyfish (Cyanea capillata) below:

To learn more:

Copyright © 2014 by Marine Science Today, a publication of Marine Science Today LLC.

About the Author

About the Author: Emily Tripp is the Publisher and Editor of She holds marine science and biology degrees from the University of Miami's Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science and a Master of Advanced Studies degree in Marine Biodiversity and Conservation from Scripps Institution of Oceanography. When she's not writing about marine science, she's probably running around outside or playing with her dog. .


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