Mixed Plankton showing radiolaria,
fish eggs, diatoms, auricularian larva and others
Mixed plankton showing stomatopod
larva, crab zoea, medusae, veligers, fish eggs and others
|'Plankton', meaning 'that which drifts', is almost
as general a term as 'plant' or 'animal'. It covers a multitude of
pelagic aquatic life forms and can refer to either saline or freshwaters.
Depending entirely upon time of day, latitude, lunar phase, weather
conditions and collecting systems used, a caught sample can consist
of almost anything from pure phytoplankton to half a ton of jellyfish!
These samples, both taken from the same place, a week apart, inside
the Great Barrier Reef of Australia are wildly different. In one,
the dominant life form is starlike single celled radiolaria, while
the other is dominated by ciliated larval forms, hydromedusae and
a predatious larval stomatopod. The more we learn about planktonic
populations the more we realise that relatively discreet communities
and concentrations of particular species and groups drift around,
mixing only within theri own 'cell' of water - often a cylinder, which
has a finite life of weeks or months.
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