OM NOM NOM!
This picture was taken in March 2009, and shows a moon jellyfish (about 12 cm in diameter) being EATEN ALIVE by a coral called Fungia scruposa (about 20 cm in diameter). It’s the first time a coral has been documented eating an adult jellyfish.
Unlike most corals, which are composed of thousands of polyps (little organisms) that live together, F. scruposa is just one big honking polyp. Most corals eat microscope munchables like plankton, but it seems this mushroom coral has an appetite to match its size. F. scruposa is also not attached to the seabed, so it can wander around a little, another point of difference between it and most other corals.
Corals and jellyfish belong to the phylum Cnidaria (pronounced nid-AIR-ee-ah), which means “stinging creature.” Pretty well all of them have little tentacle-type things that are full of ouchy-toxins, which I was lucky enough to experience first hand a few years ago when out snorkeling. Anemones belong to the same phylum, and some have been known to eat jellyfish as well. Good. Jellyfish piss me off!
It will be interesting to find out how the coral catches the jellyfish in the first place, so far we don’t have an answer. I’m putting my money on a chemoattractant, a chemical perfume that lures them in a la Pepe le Pew. This may be because I am a romantic.
You can read more about it in the scientific article here, or on the BBC website which picked up the story on Friday.
The picture is really amazing.
How did I miss this post! That picture is awesome. It’s like something out of sci-fi.
INVITATION TO DINE…
“I’m putting my money on a chemoattractant,…”
I was wondering myself how that might work. Your guess sounds plausible, though I’m still not clear on how the jellyfish gets into the thing in the first place. Perhaps by inserting it’s “mouth” into the coral orifice to suck out the food it thinks is there? Or, maybe the coral sprays out burst of nutrients as bait? It would have the same effect.