Monday 11 May 2020

Cannibalism helps invading invertebrates survive severe conditions

Date:May 7, 2020
Source:University of Southern Denmark

In a world where movements of non-native animal species are drastically disrupting whole ecosystems and causing economic harm and environmental change, it is becoming increasingly important to understand the features that allow them to colonize new habitats.

A new study, published in Communications Biology, shows that the prolific comb jelly, a marine invertebrate invader from North America that now frequently washes up on Baltic shores, is able to expand their geographical range thanks to the use of its own young as nutrient stores through long and nutrient deprived winters.

As jellies trace their lineage back to the beginning of all animal life, this work furthers the view of cannibalism as a pervasive trait amongst the animal kingdom.

Mysterious success

With their translucent gelatinous bodies, they may not look like much, but the expansion of the comb jelly, Mnemiopsis leidyi, from the east coasts of North and South America to Eurasian coastal waters has wreaked havoc on local environments.

Their success has remained something of a mystery especially as, instead of storing resources before wintering, they seemed to counterproductively invest in massive 'blooms' of offspring unable to survive long and nutrient deprived winters.

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