Do Sea Turtles Eat Jellyfish? Why & How?

Yes, sea turtles, which are omnivorous and carnivorous, snack on jellyfish. There are seven species of turtles across the world. Among them, most are omnivorous in their youth. In adulthood, it’s common for turtles to become herbivorous. Apart from that, some turtles might even live on small fishes like shrimp till death.

The tentacles of jellyfish are the source of nutrition for sea turtles. Although these tentacles can inject venom, the natural posture and defense mechanism system protect turtles from getting intoxicated while tearing apart a jellyfish body and consuming it. Ultimately, turtles are predators of some small sea beings.

Do Sea Turtles Eat Jellyfish?

Most carnivore and omnivore turtles have jaws that work like scissors to pierce and cut their food into pieces. Such a mouth construction won’t help in piercing vertebrate bodies, that’d require teeth mainly.

Jellyfishes aren’t vertebrates. Although 95% of their bodies contain water, turtles love to hunt down jellyfish as they are easy to kill.

sea turtle

Now, if you think the toxic nematocysts can kill them while going inside the turtle’s belly, then you’re absolutely wrong. Surprisingly, many turtles in the sea have even consumed plastic near the sea beaches. So, their digestion system is surprisingly stronger than many other reptiles.

Additional Note: Now, you can understand why a turtle can live for almost a century, right? It’s because they can change their food habit quite easily to adapt to the situation and physical changes. Also, a turtle has a tummy that can stay well even after consuming nematocysts that can inject toxins only the contact with animal skin. And for that, turtles can resist any poisoning and live for years.

How Do Sea Turtles Eat Jellyfish?

Research says the ancestors of the turtles used to have teeth. But after hundreds of years of evolution, turtles have lost their teeth and got jaws capable of cutting food like scissors.

See also  Do Jellyfish Have Genders? [Biological Facts]

Because of having a toothless mouth, a sea turtle learns to consume those food items that don’t require precise and sharp piercing. And thus, some species become herbivores due to less effective jaws and others become carnivores with the help of firm-cutting jaws.

As turtles are reptiles, their bodies don’t get too much revealed in front of their prey. The only thing coming forward to consume the target is the mouth.

During hunting, the turtle goes near the jellyfish, even if it makes the turtle go near the waterline. Then, the turtle put its mouth in front of the tentacles of the jellyfish.

While doing so, turtles close their eyelids to protect their eyes from the venom injection. The skin on the turtle mouth is thicker than other skin areas, so the mouth or beak doesn’t get stung by the nematocysts.

But most of the protection actually comes from the shell indeed. An adult turtle’s shell is as strong as a 20lbs thick rock. Because of this, jellyfish can’t counter the attacks from the turtle.

If you look at the video, you can see that a turtle can attack larger jellyfish even if the turtle can’t consume the whole tentacles in a single bite. Sea turtles use flippers or legs to tear tentacles from the body one by one to have several bites and completely snack on a turtle’s body.

Which Sea Turtles Eat Jellyfish?

jellyfish

Earlier, we said that most omnivorous and carnivorous turtles eat jellyfish. So, which sea turtle species and sub-species are carnivorous? That’s why at this point of the discussion, we’re showing you the list of turtle families that eat jellyfish.

  • Leatherback Turtle: Leatherbacks’ food habit contains invertebrates that have bodies mostly made of water or jellies. For that, we can assume this specie is the biggest predator of jellyfish.
  • Yellow-Bellied Slider Turtle: This specie can eat almost anything edible to turtle class. You can find bother carnivore and herbivore sliders in the ocean. But it’s said that every slider except those living as pets or abiding by the land can eat water insects and jellies.
  • Green Sea Turtle: The hatchling and young green turtles are mainly carnivores. But when they reach adulthood, these turtles change their diet and live on vegetation.
  • Flatback Turtle: Flatbacks stay omnivores till death. They have the belly to digest both plants and sea creatures like shrimp, small fishes, jellyfish, etc.
  • Loggerhead Turtle: After leatherback, this specie is the biggest threat to jellyfish. Loggerheads have the exact opposite life cycle from green turtles. They are omnivores from the beginning. But gradually, they fully depend on sea animals like crabs, jellyfish, etc.
See also  Can Jellyfish Live In Freshwater? The Survival Challenge

What Other Things Do Sea Turtles Snack on?

The food habit of any animal species depends on the body structure, residence, and natural abilities.

As we all know that turtles are that fast like other sea predators, they tend to hunt down only those small species that are easily reachable and unable to escape so quickly.

You can see that many sea turtle species become herbivorous from omnivorous after growing older. It’s because the body weight and bulkiness in adulthood make some turtles’ movements and speed limited.

But semi-aquatic turtles depend on vegetation more as they find land plants easily accessible when they’re on the shore. These kinds barely look for any small animals to become prey.

In short, sea turtles tend to eat small invertebrate beings under the sea that doesn’t require sharp teeth to be pierced. And the turtles are well aware of their physical limitations. Thus, slower species are their prime target, apart from seaweed, plants, etc.

Can You Feed Jellyfish to Your Pet Turtles?

There’s no separate food habit for pet turtles. They eat almost anything that other turtles from their species depend on.

But before that, you need to specify the specie of your pet. If the specie is carnivorous or omnivorous, you can give the pet turtle a fair number of jellyfish every day for proper nutrition.

Usually, you can find turtle pet food boxes at the pet shops near you. That stuff can be a good substitute for raw animal protein.

Do Turtles Get High from Eating Jellyfish?

Consuming the venomous tentacles of jellyfish might cause intoxication in the body of a turtle. But generally, it doesn’t cause anything uncommon to happen.

See also  Box Jellyfish: Habitat, Diet & Other Facts 

Yet, sometimes, the high amount of jellyfish consumption can have some bad impacts on the turtles’ nerves. Due to that reason, turtles might act abnormally for a short period of time.

FAQ

What is the predator of jellyfish?

Though jellyfish can sting and cause intoxication, some larger predators consume them quite easily.  For example, octopus, shark, turtle, crab, and sunfish are the common predators of jellyfish that rarely get affected by venom injection.

Why can sea turtles eat jellyfish?

Sea turtles can eat jellyfish due to their sharp jaws covered with thick skin to protect them from stinging. Despite not having any teeth, the jaws work as a scissor to cut prey into pieces and consume them.

Summary

A major part of leatherback turtles’ food habits is jellyfish. Apart from that, most semi-aquatic and sea turtles snack on jellyfish, some for a certain period of life and others for a lifetime.

Turtles are used to dealing with venoms inside the nematocysts of the jellyfish tentacles. That’s why the matter’s not so surprising at all. Some science papers also say that turtle digestion is capable of digesting even many weird stuffs that you can’t even imagine. Thus, jellyfish becoming a key diet to sea turtles is completely acceptable.

5 thoughts on “Do Sea Turtles Eat Jellyfish? Why & How?”

Leave a Comment