Plankton is the basis of the oceanic food chain. It is composed by little algae (phytoplankton) and animals, mostly crustaceans (zooplankton). Because of their little size, it was thought that they weren’t able to swim against the currents, so they will be the perfect prey. Maybe we’ll have to change our minds!
Researchers from Texas found that the animal organisms that make up the plankton are able to adapt to water temperature. The researchers are trying to understand which effects climate change will have on them.
And that’s important because the colder the water, the higher the viscosity! So cold water is more difficult for them to swim. They used a 3-D holographic technology and used Nauplius, the copepods larvae. And in natural thermal extremes, the larvae were able to escape to the same distance while maintaining optimal velocity.>
How are they able to do that? Well, when they feel a colder temperature, they are able to alter the rhythm of their pulsing appendage, being faster. Jian Sheng, one of the researchers said: “At 3,000 frames per second, it was like tracking a race car through a microscope” .
Now we know that zooplankton is not only able to swim, but to adapt to changing temperatures. But they are not able to react to viscosity changes, which can be produced by pollution or algal blooms. And maybe you’ll think that we can’t do anything about algal blooms. Well, their causes remain unclear, but coastal water pollution, higher sea temperatures and an excess of nutrients due to fertilizers can have a huge importance here.
Plankton is the basis of the oceanic food change, so it is vital for us! We need to protect them, even if we can’t see them without a microscope. So remember, an oil spill or a red tide not only affects birds or manatees, they also affect the tiny organisms that are the support of all the marine ecosystems. The worst pollution is the one that you can’t see!
You can start helping from home, for example, reducing your plastics, or using natural fertilizers as deserved to avoid water pollution!
How do you think we can further protect plankton? Take part in the conversation! Conservation starts with you!