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Sea corals team up to catch and eat stinging jellyfish

The corals co-operate to snare their prey and secure a large meal, scientists claimed.

Corals work together to catch and eat stinging jellyfish, a study has found.

Scientists believed corals did not eat jellyfish but are now rethinking the theory following new discoveries.

Researchers studying cave-dwelling corals in the Mediterranean have shown they can co-operate to capture jellyfish swept against their walls by ocean currents.

After spotting jellyfish stuck to undersea cliffs and caves near islands off the Sicilian coast, scientists discovered how the corals can catch such large prey.

Observations showed that as jellyfish tried to escape, they brush against more of the corals which each latched on to them.

The co-ordinated effort to snare their prey rewards the corals, which mostly feed on tiny marine creatures known as plankton, with a large meal.

Scientists said the jellyfish shown being eaten, Pelagia noctiluca, or the mauve stinger, is responsible for most of the painful stings people suffer while swimming in the Mediterranean.

Researchers from Edinburgh University worked with researchers in Italy on the study.

Fabio Badalementi, research director at the Italian National Research Council and Edinburgh University honorary professor, said: “Although both species have been known for years, we had no idea that the coral could catch and eat these jellyfish.”

Edinburgh University colleague Murray Roberts said: “The conventional wisdom is that corals don’t eat jellyfish but these results show that we need to keep both our eyes and minds open to new discoveries.”

The study was published in the journal Ecology.

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