In this brief guide, we’ll address the query: “What animals eat seaweed?” Also, we’ll explore what seaweed is, what its uses are, how it differs from terrestrial plants, what the role of seaweed is in the environment, and what are some culinary uses of seaweed.
What animals eat seaweed?
Several animals distributed throughout the planet’s marine environments include seaweed in their diets. It is an important food for animals both herbivorous and omnivorous, who source minerals, fiber, vitamins, and non-animal protein.
Specifically, animals such as manatees, snails, sea turtles, crustaceans such as shrimps, crabs crawfish, lobsters, herbivorous birds (such as brants), and some types of fish (both marine and freshwater types kept in captivity) find nourishment in seaweed.
Seaweed is not only sustenance for animals, but it can also constitute important niches for animals such as jellyfish, other types of fish, and mollusks. These niches, for their part, constitute important food sources for other animals on higher tiers of the food chain.
What is seaweed?
Seaweed is an umbrella term that alludes to many species of plants and algae that grow beneath the water and in areas such as oceans, seas, rivers, lakes, lagoons, and other bodies of water.
They can photosynthesize; this means that they can convert luminous energy into chemical energy and they can differ in size between species and individuals; some can be microscopic particles, and others can form large clumps beneath the forest that can be known as –kelp forests.–
The term seaweed may also be subject to misapprehension. Some species of seaweed may be anything but weeds.
In a broad sense, a weed refers to a plant whose presence is a nuisance and it has no value, as it cannot be exploited, and its growth antagonizes other plants such as crops and ornamentals.
Seaweeds are important components of underwater ecosystems as they provide shelter and sustenance for many species, and to humans, they can provide nourishment, as well as raw materials for manufacturing various products.
Species are distributed differently throughout their environments, as some can favor warmer (or colder) temperatures, different levels of solar radiation, and different types of water (saltwater, freshwater, with nitrates, etc).
What are the uses of seaweed?
Seaweed has a variety of uses. It can be used as food, livestock feed, fish feed, fertilizer, cosmetics, fuel, and it can be sourced for a variety of chemicals and biomolecules used in other synthetic formulations.
In some cases, seaweed can be considered a nuisance, such as when it is found in high concentrations and it impedes or obstructs shorelines and waterways.
The exact uses of seaweed will depend on the species that is harvested, as some may have more uses than others.
How is seaweed different from terrestrial plants?
Seaweed differs from most terrestrial plants in the sense that it is not a vascular plant. Unlike trees, flowers, weeds and other plants that have a root, stem, leaves and give flowers (or other reproductive structures) seaweeds have different structures.
In place of a stem, they have a thallus– which is a structure that makes up most of its body.
In place of leaves, seaweeds may have a lamina or blade, which unlike leaves, forms reproductive structures and tissues that convey buoyancy, allowing it to float.
In place of roots, seaweed may have structures known as holdfasts, which it uses to anchor itself to substrates and hard surfaces. Unlike roots, holdfasts cannot assimilate water or nutrients, and only have the anchoring function.
Some types of seaweed may have some specialized structures in place of others, and these may serve as an advantage in certain types of environments.
What is the role of seaweed in the environment?
Dense layers of seaweed can trap fish near the surface of the water, causing them to asphyxiate and be easy prey, it can also entangle animals such birds, turtles and other species that can’t breathe underwater.
In beach resorts, seaweed can build up on the shores and if it begins to rot, it can emanate offensive smells and give off toxic gasses with irritant properties.
What are some culinary uses of seaweed?
Culinary uses of seaweed include being used as wraps, made into noodles, into meat substitutes, and low-calorie substitutes for other products.
Seaweed can also be processed into additives such as gelling agents, gums and texture modifieds used in custards, dressings, and condiments.
It is popular in Asian cuisine, especially in seafood dishes, and it can provide many nutritional benefits.
To summarize, seaweed is edible by both humans and marine animals that have herbivorous and omnivorous tendencies.
In this brief guide, we’ve addressed the query: “What animals eat seaweed?” Also, we’ve explored what seaweed is, what its uses are, how it differs from terrestrial plants, what the role of seaweed is in the environment, and what are some culinary uses of seaweed.