Tiny amphipods eat jellyfish to survive the long polar winters • Earth.com

In the remote, frigid waters of the Arctic, during the long, dark polar night, a discovery was made that shakes up our understanding of the Arctic marine food web.

Scientists have found evidence that small crustaceans known as amphipods prey on both live and dead jellyfish to survive the harsh Arctic winters when food sources are scarce. I got it for the first time.

The discovery highlights the adaptability of marine life in the face of extreme environmental conditions and suggests an important reassessment of the role of jellyfish in Arctic ecosystems.

Adaptability of amphipods and marine life

The research, published by Frontiers, was conducted during an expedition to the AWIPEV research station in Svalbard in January and February 2022.

The research team embarked on this journey to investigate the feeding habits of amphipods, small crustaceans between 5 and 20 millimeters long, in the deep waters of Kongsfjorden, Svalbard.

This study revealed an important survival strategy used by these organisms during the months-long polar night when traditional food sources diminish.

“We show for the first time that jellyfish, which are generally considered to have low nutritional value, are nevertheless an important food source for amphipods during the polar night in the Arctic,” said study lead author Alfred Wegener. said Anne-Katrin Decherite, a doctoral student at the university.

amphipod anatomy

The researchers found that amphipods not only feed on jellyfish falls, which are naturally sunken jellyfish carcasses, but some species actively prey on live jellyfish.

This discovery is extremely important, highlighting previously underappreciated interactions within the Arctic Ocean food web.

It turns out that the waters around Svalbard are home to a wide variety of jellyfish, from real jellyfish like the lion’s mane to hydrozoans and ctenophores.

The researchers focused on four species of amphipods, collected using nets and baited traps.

Through dissection of the amphipod and DNA metabarcoding of its gut contents, the researchers were able to identify prey remains, revealing a jellyfish-rich diet among the species studied.

This evidence suggests that, contrary to previous belief, jellyfish play an important role in the diet of arctic amphipods, especially during harsh winters.

A rapidly changing Arctic

The study also highlights the broader implications of these findings in the context of the rapidly changing Arctic environment.

A phenomenon known as ‘Atlanticization’ – the northward spread of jellyfish species from the Atlantic Ocean due to rising ocean temperatures – could further amplify the importance of jellyfish as a food source in the Arctic food web.

As the Arctic warms at a record pace, understanding the dynamics of these food webs and the role of jellyfish within them becomes increasingly important.

“Recently, there has been a paradigm shift in the marine biology literature, recognizing that jellyfish are not ‘trophic dead ends’ and are actually eaten by a wide range of organisms,” study co-author Charlotte Habermans said. the doctor said.

“Our observations support this major shift in how scientists view jellyfish’s role in food webs.”

“Because jellyfish tissue is quickly digested, it may have been overlooked as prey in previous studies. In this study, we used visual identification of food to identify the diet of arctic invertebrates. It depended on.”

wider impact

As profound environmental change continues in the Arctic, further research on marine invertebrate and fish diets will be essential to unraveling the complex interactions that maintain these unique ecosystems.

This study lays the foundation for future research and opens new avenues to explore the resilience of Arctic marine life in the face of climate change.

“To better understand the role of jellyfish in the Arctic marine food web and how they will change as jellyfish populations increase in the ‘new Arctic,’ we We plan to further investigate the feeding habits of other possible invertebrates and fish, including jellyfish,” Dishreit said.

“Questions remain, for example, whether jellyfish are part of the amphipod’s normal diet or simply food for survival during the polar night.”

The research will be published in a journal Frontiers of marine science.

Image credit: C. Havermans


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