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What Do Jellyfish Eat? - Lesson for Kids

Instructor: Kelley Lipke

Kelley has been teaching middle school for six years and has a master's degree in educational administration.

Did you know that jellyfish have drifted through Earth's oceans since before dinosaurs existed? In this lesson, learn about the diet that has helped to keep this fascinating underwater species alive for millions of years.

What Is a Jellyfish?

Have you ever walked on a beach and stumbled upon a gooey blob in the sand? If so, you've seen a jellyfish!

Jellyfish
Jellyfish

Jellyfish are sea creatures that have been floating through Earth's oceans for millions of years. Despite what their name says, they aren't actually fish. Jellyfish are invertebrates, or animals without backbones. Actually, jellyfish have no bones at all!

Rather, they are made of a slimy, jelly-like material, which is how they got their name. Their bell-shaped bodies are translucent, or almost see-through. In addition to no bones, jellyfish also don't have a heart, blood, or a brain.

As a result, they have a difficult time swimming, so they tend to float through water, moving along with the currents. This is why they are commonly found washed up on beaches.

Now that you know a little about what a jellyfish is, let's take a look at what they eat!

What Do Jellyfish Eat?

Jellyfish are carnivorous animals. This means they enjoy feasting on other sea creatures. Sometimes they are called opportunistic predators, meaning they will eat just about anything they float into.

Although they aren't picky about what they eat, their diet typically depends on their size. Some jellyfish are as tiny as a pinhead, so they can only feed on things like plankton, which refers to small, floating creatures. Larger jellyfish prey on bigger food sources such as fish, shrimp, and crab. The largest jellyfish may even consume other jellyfish!

How Jellyfish Eat

You may be wondering how something with no bones, heart, or brain can possibly eat other animals. Let's look at the unique parts of the jellyfish that help with digestion.

Jellyfish parts
Jellyfish Parts

Jellyfish have long tentacles hanging from their body, kind of like stringy arms, which are often used to trap their prey. Sometimes, the toxic venom from the tentacles is used to kill the prey before it's eaten.

Once captured and killed, food is brought to the mouth by the oral arms. Oral arms are like fuzzy ribbons that are near the mouth and hang from within the body.

There is a small hole located underneath the bell-shaped body, which is the mouth. This opening is small, so sometimes a jellyfish will kill their prey, then find that the food won't be able to fit - so they have to find something else to eat!

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