A Paradigm Shift in the Trophic Importance of Jellyfish?

Trends Ecol Evol. 2018 Nov;33(11):874-884. doi: 10.1016/j.tree.2018.09.001. Epub 2018 Sep 20.


The past 30 years have seen several paradigm shifts in our understanding of how ocean ecosystems function. Now recent technological advances add to an overwhelming body of evidence for another paradigm shift in terms of the role of gelatinous plankton (jellyfish) in marine food webs. Traditionally viewed as trophic dead ends, stable isotope analysis of predator tissues, animal-borne cameras, and DNA analysis of fecal and gut samples (metabarcoding) are all indicating that many taxa routinely consume jellyfish. Despite their low energy density, the contribution of jellyfish to the energy budgets of predators may be much greater than assumed because of rapid digestion, low capture costs, availability, and selective feeding on the more energy-rich components. Feeding on jellyfish may make marine predators susceptible to ingestion of plastics.

Keywords: appendicularians; diet; fasting endurance; ingestion rates; jelly web; microplastic; salp; siphonophores.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cnidaria
  • Ctenophora
  • Feeding Behavior
  • Food Chain*
  • Invertebrates*
  • Oceans and Seas
  • Predatory Behavior
  • Urochordata
  • Zooplankton