Marine Biology

The Importance of Jellyfish in the Oceans Food Chain



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Jellyfish are the vacuum cleaners of the ocean and therefore extremely important in the ocean's food chain! To understand the importance of the jellyfish, one has to first begin with the small and seemingly insignificant creature in the ocean called the copepod. Do not be fooled by it's size. Copepods are the mainstay of the diet of the jellyfish and therefore help us to see why the jellyfish are so significant.

The copepod is a tiny marine animal who inhabits every ocean around the world in numbers too large for any count to begin to take place.

Copepods are crustaceans related to lobsters. They are about one millimeter long and are very complex in nature. They are more complex than the jellyfish who feed on them. Copepods have jointed legs, antennae, exoskeleton, a circulatory system and a heart. A jellyfish is comprised of mostly gut, mouth and tentacles.

The jellyfish play a vital role in helping to keep the copepod population in control. Copepods feed on phytoplankton. Phytoplankton is the plant matter that floats in large masses in the oceans and seas around the earth. After the copepods die, they actually deplete the oxygen in the water and some even add a toxin to the water when they die. Because they are so numerous and their life-cycle is so short, if it were not for the jellyfish, it is theorized, human existence would eventually be affected. The jellyfish do come to our rescue by cleaning up copepod debris as well as feeding on living copepods. One jellyfish will consume hundreds and thousands of copepods in a lifetime.

Copepods comprise the main staple for the diet of the jellyfish. If not for the jellyfish and their link in this important part of the food chain, all of ocean life would destabilize. We should always double our efforts to maintain our conservation and preservation of all ocean life no matter how small or insignificant one millimeter might seem.

The survival of humankind depends on the ocean's food chain to continue uninterrupted. We must double our efforts to ensure our oceans are free of pollution and work to conserve this resource-the ocean, which is connected to our very existence. Each living entity within the ocean plays a role in the cycle of life for all of us. The jellyfish, while beautiful, is yet one more link between the our survival on earth, and what goes on beneath the surface of the ocean.

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