Dead jellyfish that wash ashore and end up on the strandline seem to slowly melt into the sand and disappear. Even during life there are not many animals that feed on them except turtles. In death they don’t seem to be very appetising either; though sometimes birds may peck and crabs may claw at the remains.
I thought for a long time that the thousands of sand hoppers – Talitrus saltator (Montagu) – frequenting the strandlines were tucking in to the jellyfish feast as well as all the other detritus. However, as far as I can find out from books and the web, these small amphipod crustaceans are vegetarian and only eat seaweed and other vegetable remains.
This leaves a puzzle because, if you look closely at the photographs of dead jellyfish (mostly Rhizostoma octopus L.) in this post, you will see that that almost all of them are surrounded by hundreds of small holes in the sand. These holes lead to the burrows where nocturnal seashore creatures like the sand hoppers hide during the daytime. Maybe their presence can be explained by the fact that these amphipods need a humidity of 90% minimum at all times to survive. The deliquescing jellyfish leaks moisture into the sand beneath and around it – providing an excellent microclimate for hopper habitation.
For more information from Jessica’s Nature Blog about this and other types of jellyfish found on Gower beaches click Jellyfish.
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