Penguins dine on jellies, study finds
Gelatinous sea animals, like jellyfish and ctenophores, have traditionally been regarded as “dead ends” in food webs. Because they are so low in calories (jellyfish are about 95 percent water), it was thought that most predators would not benefit from eating them. But a recent study has identified a new, unexpected jelly-eater: penguins.
Like other warm-blooded animals, penguins have high caloric demands and typically seek energy-dense foods, like fish and krill. In a paper published in Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, however, an international consortium of scientists has reported that an assortment of penguin species frequently attack jellies as food, a behavior that had not been documented before.
In the new study, led by Jean-Baptiste Thiebot, a postdoctoral researcher at the National Institute of Polar Research in Japan, teams from five countries monitored four penguin species: Magellanic penguins in Argentina, Adelie penguins in Antarctica, little penguins in Australia and yellow-eyed penguins in New Zealand.
Strapping miniature video cameras to the penguins, the scientists documented nearly 200 strikes on jellies at seven sites.
“We were amazed to realize that all teams observed the same phenomenon,” Thiebot said.