3 min read
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.
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.
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.
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