Zooplankton: Animal plankton
Phytoplankton: Plankton composed of floating plant organisms
Snorkeling or scuba diving in the sea opens up a magical world.
The recognizable creatures, such as fish, and dolphins, as well as the coral reefs never fail to excite us anew every time. However, sometimes, during an exciting expedition into the sea, we discover that the water is crowded with tiny floating bodies.
It is clouded with tiny particles that float across and stick to scuba masks – they can also sometimes cause burns on the body if they happen to penetrate bathing, or diving suits.
A world of numerous single and multi celled organisms. The term plankton includes all the tiny floating organisms, some of which measure tens of centimeters, crowded together, in their hundreds, in every drop of water. The water is also populated with plants, mostly in the upper layer of water that is illuminated by the sun.
The animal plankton (zooplankton) feeds on the plant plankton (phytoplankton) afloat in the water.
Food production by plants is called primary production; it is the first stage in the marine food production chain.
These processes are capable of performing a photosynthetic process (a chemical action that takes place in plants, mainly to convert non-organic material [minerals and water] into organic material [carbohydrates] with the influence of light and chlorophyll pigment) to produce food, while the plankton is floating in the upper layer of the water.
Most plankton creatures, even the largest, are transparent; a characteristic that helps to conceal them from the roving eyes of marine predators.
During their early years, most marine animals exist as larva, which makes them a member of the plankton family.
Here are a few examples:
The coral, which always remains in a fixed position, is dependent on the distribution of plankton floating in an expanse of water until it comes into contact with something on which it can settle. Other creatures such as snails, clams, crabs, and echinoderm, multiply in the same manner.
Most plankton creatures absorb their oxygen, food, and water through the sides of their bodies which explains their simple structure. Most of them were not found to have a complex respiratory system, food transmission cells, or digestion and excretion systems. Most species have motion organs, except that these are not sufficiently developed to enable them to resist water currents. In fact, as they go through life, most plankton continue to drop downwards in the sea. Due to the absence of any ground beneath them, plankton larvae are capable of delaying their development for a long period of time, until reaching shallow water.
It has been revealed that plant plankton (phytoplankton) contain representatives from all algae groups, some as single cells, and others as long clustered, or chain cells.
There is a clear link between plankton in the vicinity of coral, and the coral itself. Coral and numerous creatures in reef clams, feather stars, sponges, and other filters are nourished by plankton. The plant plankton in the coral produces the coral’s nutrition – nitrogen and phosphorous – while the plankton enjoy the saliva, and other necrotic organic material that is excreted from the coral, which actually serves as their food.