Recently scientists from Israel encountered a strange sightâ€”a coral eating a jellyfish in the Red Sea. We saw this news posted on the BBCâ€™s website and did a bit more digging. Typically larger predators are the animals taking advantage of jellyfish for a meal but during a season upwelling in March 2009 a large number of moon jellyfish (Aurelia aurita) made their way to the reefs in the Gulf of Aqaba where Omri Bronstein (Tel Aviv University) and Gal Dishon (Bar-Ilan University) were able to witness and document mushroom coral (Fungia scruposa) making a meal of the jellyfish. This is the first known documentation of a coral eating a jellyfish and was recently published in the International Society for Reef Studies Coral Reef Journal saying:
Despite the fact that hermatypic corals may feed heterotrophically on a broad variety of sources ranging in size from bacteria to mesozooplankton (up to 1,000 lm) (Houlbre`que and Ferrier-Page`s 2009), this is the first report of solitary corals feeding on large gelatinous plankton (ca. 12 cm in diameter) in their natural habitat.
The team also noted other cnidarians, like anemones such as Entacmaea medusivora in Palau, have been known to regularly feed on jellyfish. The main difference is the jellyfish there are constantly around providing these anemones a steady source of food plus the anemones donâ€™t have the symbiotic photosynthetic â€œendosymbiontsâ€ as corals to help meet their nutritional needs.The research team finds it hopeful for corals to adapt to more opportunistic opportunities for food, especially in wake of global climate and ocean acidification plaguing the future of the coral reef. As hobbyists, weâ€™re used to finding some pretty interesting things in the mouths of our beloved LPS corals (a dwarf cerinth in a mouth of the authorâ€™s A. echinata for example) so we know they can be opportunistic in alternative sources of foods at times. But we wonder if these corals caught the jellyfish as they propelled by or if they had the meal fall into their laps?