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Can A Sea Turtle Eat A Box Jellyfish?

Can A Sea Turtle Eat A Box Jellyfish?

Can A Sea Turtle Eat A Box Jellyfish?

By LindaWalkowich

As I'm watching a documentary about sea turtles, I can't help but wonder, "Can a sea turtle eat a box jellyfish?"

The answer, is yes, a sea turtle can eat a box jellyfish. Some breeds of sea turtles have hard, dome-like heads that protect them from the potent venom of a box jellyfish, making them a top predator to this jellyfish species.

How Do Sea Turtles Eat Box Jellyfish?

My curiosity about how a sea turtle eats a box jellyfish led me to some further research. As it turns out, highly intelligent sea turtles have caught onto the fact that jellyfish tentacles are most venomous, so they begin by eating box jellyfish heads first.

I also discovered that sea turtles have a special anatomy with unique features that can protect them from the stings and venom of jellyfish. They have inward-facing, spiny projections inside their mouths that help provide protection. Also, their throat's are lined with "papillae," which is made from the same protein as our hair and nails, that provides a layer of defense against venom and aids in digesting jellyfish.

I find the ocean's food chain fascinating, and I was surprised to learn sea turtles can be fierce underwater predators. Their senses, particularly their eyes, can perform well in all their environments - land, the water's surface, and deep water. Sea turtles can easily detect "glowing" creatures, making them ideal hunters for a variety of jellyfish species, including the box jellyfish.

What Types of Sea Turtles Eat Box Jellyfish?

I learned there are seven types of sea turtles worldwide. Every type of sea turtle has a unique diet, which can include foods like algae, seaweed, and small crustaceans. Four types of sea turtles are known to eat box jellyfish as part of their regular diets:

Loggerhead turtles - Their large, dome-shaped heads are designed to eat prey such as jellyfish. Green sea turtles - These omnivores are happy with a meal of box jellyfish and a side of seaweed. Kemp's Ridley turtles - As one of the most carnivorous sea turtles, Kemp Ridley's are known to hunt box jellyfish. Leatherback sea turtles - With a head specifically shaped to kill and eat jellyfish species, the box jellyfish is common on the menu.

Where Do Box Jellyfish Live?

I can imagine it's an unusual sight to see a sea turtle snacking on a box jellyfish head. While it's unlikely you'll witness this moment, it is possible to come across a box jellyfish on your trip to the beach.

Box jellyfish prefer warmer waters, and they are most commonly found off the Northern coast of Australia and the Indo-Pacific region. These venomous invertebrates like to stay close to the surface of the water so they can be found in beach environments. (Learning this definitely makes me second-guess my dream of vacationing on the Northern Australian beaches.)

Luckily, sea turtles are also found in these regions and prefer similar climates, giving them the opportunity to hunt box jellyfish. While an encounter with a box jellyfish can be frightening, and potentially fatal if you're not careful, it would be interesting to observe these two unique species in their natural habitats - from a distance, of course.

Is It Good that Sea Turtles Eat Box Jellyfish?

Sea turtles are an endangered species, meaning it is important to help conserve their lives. By eating box jellyfish, which are not endangered or classified as "at risk," sea turtles are able to fill their bellies on a sustainable food source. When sea turtles are in environments with an abundance of food, they are more likely to remain healthy and reproduce. The fact that sea turtles help control the population of a highly dangerous animal to humans and other species could be perceived as a good thing as well.

The Bottom Line

It's definitely a bizarre concept to think a box jellyfish, which is incredibly venomous and potentially lethal to humans, could be considered lunch for peaceful sea turtle. But I set out to learn the answer to a curious question, "Can a sea turtle eat a box jellyfish?" I was surprised to learn the answer is yes, and sea turtles have many adaptations that allow them to easily include these toxic jellies in their diets. Sea turtles are considered one of the box jellyfish's few predators in the ocean, and they play an important role in the oceanic food chain.


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Riley - June 10, 2020

I’m glad the sea turtles are able to eat this abundant sea creature, the jelly fish. I’ve seen some people actually eat jellyfish salad, and I wonder how is THAT even possible?? LOL.

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