Unravelling the macro-evolutionary ecology of fish–jellyfish associations: life in the ‘gingerbread house’

Donal C. Griffin, Chris Harrod, Jonathan D. R. Houghton, Isabella Capellini

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Fish–jellyfish interactions are important factors contributing to fish stock success. Jellyfish can compete with fish for food resources, or feed on fish eggs and larvae, which works to reduce survivorship and recruitment of fish species. However, jellyfish also provide habitat and space for developing larval and juvenile fish which use their hosts as means of protection from predators and feeding opportunities, helping to reduce fish mortality and increase recruitment. Yet, relatively little is known about the evolutionary dynamics and drivers of such associations which would allow for their more effective incorporation into ecosystem models. Here, we found that jellyfish association is a probable adaptive anti-predator strategy for juvenile fish, more likely to evolve in benthic (fish living on the sea floor), benthopelagic (fish living just above the bottom of the seafloor), and reef-associating species than those adapted to other marine habitats. We also found that jellyfish association likely preceded the evolution of a benthic, benthopelagic, and reef-associating lifestyle rather than its evolutionary consequence, as we originally hypothesized. Considering over two-thirds of the associating fish identified here are of economic importance, and the wide-scale occurrence and diversity of species involved, it is clear the formation of fish–jellyfish associations is an important but complex process in relation to the success of fish stocks globally.
Original languageEnglish
Article number20182325
Number of pages9
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Issue number1899
Publication statusPublished - 20 Mar 2019


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