An international team of scientists has revealed a sea home to hundreds of millions of jellyfish that range in size from tiny dots to massive reef-like structures that form giant colonies.
The findings, published in the journal Marine Ecology Progress Series, shed new light on the jellyfish and the marine environment around them, with the findings likely to lead to the exploration of the ocean floor as a potential new source of life for future generations.
The team of researchers included from the UK and the US found a number of marine species that are common in the world’s oceans, including corals, amphipods, and the giant jellyfish, which can weigh up to 2 metres (6ft) long.
They have also discovered that there are around 1,000 species of jelly fish in the Great Barrier Reef, with one species, the red-spot jellyfish (RMS), which lives on the coral reefs of Queensland and the Great Australian Bight, the world number one aquarium fish.
But the jellyflots also include the ubiquitous blue-spot, which is known to have a life of its own, with its pink or blue tentacles, and a species called the coral-fishing jellyfish.
“The blue-spotted coral-fish, or rams, are an example of the marine food chain,” said co-author Professor Matthew Hogg, a marine biologist from the University of Western Australia, who led the study.
“They are an oceanic scavenger that can eat virtually any kind of animal that is in the water.”
And they are often quite large, being between 4 and 6 metres (13 to 21ft) in length, and their diet includes anything that has the ability to float on the surface of the water.
“The team found that the reef-life-dependent jellyfish colony is composed of a number to 20 species, with some of the smallest being about the size of a grain of rice.
Professor Hogg said they also found a new species of coral-eating jellyfish known as the blue-fisherman.”
There are a lot of other animals that are related to the bluefish, like blue crabs, and so that’s a really interesting area of research to look at,” he said.”
We found that a few of the species are related, which means that there may be more of these species out there than we thought.
“In addition to the giant colonies of jelly, the scientists found that there were a number other jelly species on the reef, including large crabs, corals and fish.”
These are not the sort of things you see in the wild,” Professor Hogg told ABC News.”
You can see them in the ocean but you can’t see them, they don’t live there.
“So we can see these things in the reef but we don’t have a lot to go on.”
But we know they’re there and that they’re eating.
They’re part of the food chain.
“The jellyfish are thought to live for a few million years, and can survive for as long as 40 years, which makes them an important part of our marine ecosystem.
Professor Mark Williams, a jellyfish expert from the US, said the research was exciting.”
This is something we haven’t seen before,” he told ABC Radio.”
It shows there are many different types of marine life, and they can live in these diverse habitats.
“Dr Hogg explained that jellyfish were an important food source for corals in Australia, which helps sustain their coral reefs.”
Jellyfish are very important for the health of the reef,” he explained.”
In the wild they don’ eat corals but they do feed on them, so they’re an important component of the coral food chain.
“Some people might think it’s just food, but they’re really part of this ecosystem, and it’s a very important part.”
Professor Williams said he was pleased to see the jellyfishes living in the UK.
“I’ve been seeing a lot more jellyfish in Australia than I have here, which I think is really exciting,” he added.
“Australia is really an amazing place to live and it has such an amazing diversity of life and we can learn a lot from them.”
Dr Williams said that in the future, the jellybugs could be a key source of food for fish in coastal waters.
“As these animals move around the world, they may end up eating some other animals or some invertebrates that are in the same way, so that will be important as we try to develop strategies to control the populations,” he remarked.
“Then we’ll have a much more complete picture of what’s going on in the oceans.”