The littlest of the little plankton animals

One of the goals of this project in the Chesapeake is to identify the links the in the foodweb out here, and how those links are affected by the presence of low oxygen water, otherwise known as hypoxia. In previous posts I’ve written a bit about jellyfish and my favorite plankton, the copepods (though I could go on and on and on about copepods). But there are some zooplankton that are even smaller – the microzooplankton. This is a group primarily defined by size – smaller than .2 mm in length. Since they are zooplankton we know they eat other organisms (in contrast to phytoplankton, which are plant plankton and use the sun’s energy and nutrients in the sea for food). Some microzooplankton are multicellular while others are single-celled. The microzooplankton are an incredibly diverse and important part of the aquatic ecosystem, and they are fed on by tiny fish, other microzooplankton, and larger zooplankton (including the ubiquitous copepods). One of our collaborators on the ship is a world expert in microzooplankton and had a lot of fun taking pictures through the microscope the last few days to see what was there. I’ve selected a few of my favorites and put them in the slideshow below, with limited commentary by me. Hopefully later I’ll have time to update this or post some more commentary on the microzooplankton, but for now enjoy the pictures, they are certainly striking.  Oh, and I’ve mixed a few phytoplankton shots in as well, since they’re pretty photogenic too.

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About planktoneer

I'm a zooplankton ecologist who studies how individual behaviors and variability affect populations of copepods in marine and estuarine systems.
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