Lobsters have found an unique way to protect themselves from jellyfish stings but the research is for a much wider economic reason.
Japanese researchers from Hiroshima University have been looking into the way lobsters protect themselves from jellyfish stings during consumption and it’s not exactly what you would expect.
As larvae, lobsters hitch a ride on the backs of jellyfish using them as a source of food and while most of their insides have the same protective shell as its outer, the midgut is soft and vulnerable exposing it to the painful stingers of the jellyfish. So how does it digest them without harm?
The researchers aimed to find out by feeding young smooth fan lobsters Japanese sea nettle tentacles and quickly collected faecal samples. To their surprise they found the faeces were wrapped in a peritrophic membrane protecting the lobster’s midgut from damage.
The discovery of the peritrophic membrane, that is designed to allow selected small molecules to pass in both directions, has allowed the researchers to understand its role and ability to withstand the deadly jellyfish tentacles.
The study, conducted by lead researcher Kaori Wakabayashi, is aimed at finding ways to sustainably feed farmed lobsters that have a complex diet with its nutritional needs not fully understood.
“Farmed marine species are often fed sardines, which has contributed to a dramatic decrease in global sardine populations. In the future, artificial food will empower farmers to provide their lobsters with convenient, sustainable, and safe nutrition regardless of weather, locality, or the availability of other marine resources. Knowing what the lobsters ate also ensures greater food safety for people,” stated Wakabayashi.
The study was originally published in the journal Plankton and Benthos Research.