Plankton

A project about plankton in several stages from 2001 to 2008

Microscopes on Morecambe Bay’
Morecambe Bay Plankton’
Plankton Portraits’
‘Driftin’ Around’

The word plankton comes from the Greek planktos, meaning to drift or wander. Plankton are tiny animals and plants which live in the sea, lakes and rivers, and are moved passively by the flow of tides and currents.   

Plankton are some of commonest but least noticed organisms on the planet. Most plankton are so small that they are only visible through a magnifying lens or a microscope.  However, they occur in huge numbers.  It is estimated that a bucket of sea water contains several hundred thousand of these tiny plants and animals.  The sea is plankton soup. 

Plankton are the basis of marine food chains and are the life source of the oceans. They are more important than the rain forests as a primary food source.  Plankton are so numerous and so sensitive to environmental variation, that they are used as indicators of climate change.  Fluctations in their distribution and frequency have been recorded by NASA satellites for over two decades and have indicated major changes in marine ecosystems.

Although the name ‘plankton’ means passively drifting, if live animal plankton are examined under a microscope, the individuals are seen to be rushing around in constant, frantic motion. In the sea, however, their own actions do not take them very far.  The majority of their movement is completely beyond their control.  Plankton are carried across the oceans by the flow of tides and currents.  They are moved enormous distances by forces which are so massive that their own strenuous activities seem completely insignificant.

 

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