How Do Humans Use Cnidarians? – (Importance of Cnidarians)

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The other name of Cnidarians is Coelenterate. They are all classified under the phylum Cnidaria (Coelenterata) of the animal kingdom.

As per data and research suggests, Cnidarians include a list of more than 9,000 living species on planet earth.

They are mostly marine animals. Cnidarians include sea anemones, sea whips, corals, sea fans, hydras, jellyfish, Portuguese men-of-war, sea anemones, sea pens.

Cnidarians find both biological and ecological benefits to humans and altogether nature a lot. They find application to humans for the aquarium trade, construction of building materials, encouraging the tourism industry near the sea, and also in the making of various biomedical products, and in other applications.

Cnidarians are very much important to humans. It is because of them that some of the richest and most complex ecosystems on the planet earth still exists.

All Cnidarians are aquatic (mostly marine) organisms. They are characterized by the presence of tentacles with stinging cells (that may or may not have venoms) called nematocysts that they use to capture food.

These animals find numerous applications for humans. They directly contribute their presence to nature and so also helps a lot directly or indirectly to humans.

Cnidarians are very much important as predators in the open ocean. They help in the smooth functioning and working of the food chain and food web of the ocean ecosystem a lot.

Cnidarians like the Coral reefs are considered to be one of the most diverse and valuable ecosystems on earth. They are an integral part of ocean life and the ocean ecosystem depends on them.

How do humans use Cnidarians and their importance? Let’s find out:

Cnidarians are a major contributor to the aquarium trade industry

Yes, the aquarium industry has flourished a lot due to the presence of various cnidarians like Jellyfishes, corals, etc. Amongst the other cnidarians, the Moon Jellyfish is the most famous one.

Moon Jellyfish is often cultured around the world and it finds its application in various household aquariums. Their sting is not powerful and venomous because they are planktivores.

Another very important one is the Colt Coral species that is highly found in Indo-Pacific coral reefs. They do not have the calcium carbonate skeleton of the reef-building corals. It is a hardy aquarium species and is commonly well-cultured.

The Green star polyp is another commonly kept one in the aquariums. These are a bit costly to keep. These are bright-green coloured species that glow in the sunlight.

Other important Aquarium species of the Cnidarian phylum are the Palm Tree Polyps, Colt Coral, Red Mushroom Anemone, Leather coral, Strawberry Anemone, etc.

Their ecosystems are a source of food for millions

The cnidarians like those in the Coral Reefs provide an ecosystem surrounding their existence where various other food resources can thrive. Thus, Coral reefs provide food to millions of humans.

Corals, like trees, provide three-dimensional structure and substrate to house and feed fish and other marine animals that humans eat.

People living in the coastal regions highly depend on marine animals to cope up with their feeding needs.

Reef animals are an important source of protein. There you can find tons of fishes, crustaceans, molluscs and other invertebrates as food for humans.

Cnidarians like some edible species of jellyfish are suitable for human consumption and are used as a source of food and as an ingredient in various dishes. These are cultured and harvested on a large scale to serve as a source of food for millions.

Sea Anemones are also a very famous delicacy. Anemones are eaten like deep-fried fish chips, and also as diced in the soup.

Coastal Coral reefs
Coastal Coral reefs

Coral Reefs protect coastlines from storms and erosion

It’s a very important point to note that Coral reefs are important to protect the sea coastlines from the damaging effects of wave action and tropical storms while providing great comfortable habitats and shelter for many marine organisms.

The Coral Reef and its ecosystem run along more than 150,000 km of coastline in more than 100 countries and territories.

These reefs stretch about hundreds of meters deep underwater and maybe kilometers far from seashores.

Due to such an existence, they are highly effective for absorbing elements coming from the ocean.

Supporting a wide range of marine life they highly helpful in reducing the impact of cyclones, hurricanes, and typhoons coming from the sea to the shore.

They are like the concrete underwater pillars and walls that protect the seacoasts and the islands by dissipating the wave energy from storms and tsunamis thus, reducing damage on adjacent land.

To understand this just take the example of the Atoll islands such as the Maldives, Kiribati, Tuvalu, and the Marshall Islands.

In these islands, you can just make out how they continue to exist after the volcanic island formation all due to the protection exclusively because of the growth of corals and other reef-associated organisms like large foraminifera.

Coral Reefs also provide habitat, spawning, and nursery grounds for economically important fish species

Yes, it has been already mentioned above in the post that the Coral Reefs provide habitats and shelter for many marine organisms. In doing so, they do create the most diverse ecosystems on the planet.

They do serve as good nursery grounds for commercially important fishes, The Reef fish varieties are the more colourful ones than the others.

They provide the best habitat for fish breeding and the protection of the eggs and the larvae of the various marine animals. The ecosystem makes it happen in a far better way.

The fishing industry depends on coral reefs because many fish spawn there and juvenile fish spend time there before making their way to the open sea. And this is actually very much important for a good cause.

These coral reef habitats are particularly very much important and beneficial when determining the component habitat structures in marine protected areas and fish breeding and spawning grounds.

In simple words, it will be very much okay to say that the Coral reefs provide the spawning and nursery grounds for the various economically important fish populations to survive.

Coral Reefs are the hotspots of marine biodiversity

Yes! Too much biodiversity of the oceans thrives there. You can’t just imagine, it’s that too much.

These Coral Reefs are the hotspots of marine biodiversity. It’s so much so that it occupies less than 1% of the ocean floor but, is home to more than 25% of marine life.

Do you know? Coral reefs are believed by many to have the highest biodiversity of any ecosystem on the planet earth. Yes, it’s even more than a tropical rainforest like the Amazon.

The presence of the Coral Reefs has helped a lot in the existence of various animals and in the development and diversification of new ones from the ancestors over the extreme course of evolution.

The impact on ocean life’s evolution and genetic variation can be credited to the presence of the reefs a lot.

It’s so much that if we talk in terms of biodiversity, the variety of species living on a coral reef is greater than in any other shallow-water marine ecosystem.

Coral reefs support more than 800 hard coral species and more than 4,000 species of fish, 2000+ molluscs, and other aquatic lives.

It boosts the fishing, recreational, and tourism industry a lot

The fishing industry in recent years has been boosted a lot in finding out the proper harvesting and cultural techniques in close relation to the coral reefs and the other cnidarians.

The fish that grow and live on coral reefs are a significant food source for over a billion people worldwide, and also for many of whom live far from the reefs.

The majority of the sea fisheries depend on the coral reefs for providing the habitat, nursery, spawning, and growing grounds for the fishes thus, encouraging the growth of the fishing industry a lot.

Recreational activities have also been boosted a lot. Recreation hubs are nowadays taking important use of many coral reef areas such as for fishing purposes, or for diving, snorkeling, boating, and catch-and-release fishing purposes.

Such recreational activities are both a source of pressure on coral reefs as well as a major source of income to the economy.

Tourism is one of the world’s largest industries and, it has grown a lot near the ocean and seashores because of the presence of extraordinary beauty of the coral reefs.

The coral reefs can be considered the best option for nature-based and eco-friendly tourism. The cnidarians like the corals are making the reef ecosystem so fragile, beautiful, and a powerful engine of coastal and marine tourism.

Every year, millions of scuba divers and snorkelers visit coral reefs to enjoy their abundant sea life. Even more, tourists visit the beaches protected by these reefs.

In fact, the presence of these eye-catching coral reefs makes the tourist place a premium one with more revenue for the industry.

Ocean Tourism data shows that coral reefs represent an economic value to the world of more than $30 billion per year, and support over 60 million travel trips annually.

They are a source of new medicines

Cnidarians are the new source of drugs, medicines, and biomedical research.

With the development of biotechnology and the advancement of science-technology, they are highly used as a new source for synthesizing Marine Bioactive Compounds.

Taking this into account, we must note that during the last decades a lot of interesting bioactive substances have been isolated from Cnidarians and those substances have been demonstrated for having cytotoxic, hemolytic, anti-inflammatory, antitumoral, anti-infective, anti-parasitic, as well as other interesting properties for medical use.

Just like hydras and jellyfishes are now used for the making of various cancer-inhibiting medicines.

It has been also discovered via. several biosynthetic studies that the various kinds of metabolites that can be extracted from soft corals have a great potentiality for the development of new pharmaceuticals and antifoulants.

Soft corals are rich sources of secondary metabolites that have shown to display HIV-inhibitory, cytotoxic, anti-inflammatory, anticancer, and antimicrobial activities, as well as cardiac and vascular responses.

Another example of a potential new therapeutic anticancer agent is a cembranolide diterpene acid synthesized from Lobophytum cristagalli (a coral), which has shown a potent inhibitory activity.

In the present day world, humans do use various bioactive natural substances as drugs, pigments, biocides just in order to synthesize various biologically active molecules from the Cnidarians.

They are useful for organic farming practices

Yes! A lot of Cnidarians are used for organic farming practices just like in the culture of fishes, molluscs, etc.

By taking the example of Coral Reefs you know that they also provide habitat, spawning, and nursery grounds for economically important fish species.

With the use of various cnidarians like jellyfishes and hydras, it is now not at all challenging to control weeds and produce high harvest yields. Aquatic organic farms now are highly benefited from it.

An all-new approach is the use of Jellyfishes as fertilizers for organic farming. These jellyfish fertilizers are also used in future forest restoration projects.

It is seen that desalinated and dried jellyfish chips are an organic fertilizer that boosts the nutrient content of the soil while inhibiting weed growth.

Present-day use of such cnidarians and their dead products shows that the use of fertilizers like the Jellyfish-fertilized rice fields consistently yielded better results than fields enriched with rice bran, and other organic fertilizers.

They are used to make biofilters

Biofiltration is a scientific process that is performed using a bioreactor that contains living material to capture and biologically degrade pollutants in order to control pollution.

In this case, microplastic and nanoplastic biofilters are used to protect the aquatic ecosystems from being affected by plastic waste.

Microplastics and nanoplastics due to their smaller size cannot be trapped by biofilters thus leading to the cause of the massive increase of microplastic pollutants in the water.

So, the Jellyfishes are now used to make biofilters to clean the microplastic and nanoplastic pollution in the oceans, rivers, lakes, or in any other water sewage treatments.

Recent researchers have shown that biofilters made with jellyfish mucus could be used in sewage treatment plants to fix this issue.

Jellyfish biofilters could also be used in factories and manufacturing plants that produce microplastic waste as well before releasing the water into the rivers, oceans, or lakes.

It’s a part of the GoJelly project. GoJelly’s goal is to develop a so-called biofilter of the mucus produced by the jellyfish.

Glowing Jellyfish due to Bioluminescence
Glowing Jellyfish due to Bioluminescence

Used in the making of Bioluminescent products that glow in the dark

Bioluminescence is the production and emission of light by a living organism. It is a form of chemiluminescence.

Bioluminescence is done widely by the cnidarians like jellyfish and corals. Jellyfishes are more commonly used in the extraction of the proteins that leads to Bioluminescence.

Today, scientists have engineered a way to harness the radiance of the cnidarians. Fortunately, the chemistries that produce bioluminescence tend to be relatively simple.

Another very important thing to note is that bioluminescence is a type of “cold light” and, the reactions that create this light waste very little energy as heat. All thanks to the proteins that lead to Bioluminescence.

Now in recent days, bioluminescent ingredients are added to lollipops, chewing gum, cake frosting, and more to bring the chemical lightning effect to the edibles.

Just take the example of an ice cream company called “Lick Me I’m Delicious”. This company produces ice-creams that glows when a warm tongue licks the cream.

It sounds like a fun treat for kids to enjoy, right?

Other products like Bioluminescent streetlights, Fields Aglow, Litmus Test for Toxins, military lights, etc. are being experimented and produced using the application of bioluminescence property of the Cnidarians.

In the extraction of Mucins that are used in artificial tears, food additives, and cosmetic products

It was discovered in jellyfish that they have a protein called Mucins. Mucin is like a long protein chain containing carbohydrates that retain moisture.

Jellyfish use mucin to clean themselves and defend against their predators. Also, note that we humans also produce mucin for similar reasons to protect and defend against harmful microorganisms.

According to cellular biology, secreted mucins are a kind of highly glycosylated proteins that form a physical barrier in order to produce the outer layer epithelial cells from stress-induced damage.

Also that the various transmembrane mucins do contribute to the physical barrier and transmit growth and survival signals to the interior of the cell.

Mucins keep our eyeballs moist and the basis of mucus in the nose is to protect against invading bacteria.

Mucins are already being used in the health and beauty industry for the past few decades. But, they are extracted from pig stomachs and cow saliva for the production of various products as mentioned, which makes them expensive.

And so, harvesting Jellyfish mucin would provide a low-cost substitute. So, these jellyfish mucins can be utilized in the production of a huge range of food additives, artificial tears, and cosmetic products.

Use of cnidarians to produce powerful toxins and venoms

Yes, it is true that the Cnidarians are venomous marine animals. These primitive venomous organisms use their specialized nematocysts to inject and penetrate their toxic venom.

Their venom is known to cause various immunological reactions in the envenomated organism.

These venoms contain enzymes, potent pore-forming toxins, and neurotoxins. Modern-day science and scientific approaches have found a way to extract that venom and use it in the medical field.

It is also important to note that during the first decade of the 21st century, more than 2000 molecules from cnidarians were and researched and described by scientists.

During the research time it was seen that the Soft corals Alcyonacea and Gorgonacea orders of Anthozoa were maked to represent the highest number of species yielding promising compounds.

So, now the present-day medical science and pharmaceutical industries are trying their best in discovering new ways to inject medicines and drugs into the human body utilizing the same techniques and chemical processes that Cnidarians use to inject venom into their prey.

These techniques are only possible by extensive research and synthesizing the proteins that lead to the formation of such venoms and utilizing those for the well-being of biomedical science.

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