THE PLANKTON IS ONE OF THE KEYSTONES OF THE OCEAN FOOD CHAIN. In fact, it’s one of the most important elements of life in the sea. And, yet, every time I mention the word, seek to talk about plankton, discuss plankton, define plankton, I can hear eyes roll all across Planet Earth.
True, plankton doesn’t have the same excitement attached to it as, say, a celebrity punching a shark on You-Know-What Week. On the other hand, it’s about a zillion times more important. So pay attention. It’s important.
TO DEFINE PLANKTON, THINK “DINNER PAIL”
After all, as discussed in “The Plankton: The Soup of Life,” Nobody goes underwater looking for plankton. Nobody except corals, gorgonians, sea anemones, baleen whales, whale sharks, sponges, brittlestars, a lot of kinds of fish and many other denizens of the deep. In fact, to the things we divers go underwater to look at, the plankton are a big, big part of the staff of life, the dinner pail, the feed bucket, their nutritional sustenance.
Along with algae – yes, algae! – plankton are one of the most important food sources for an array of animals found on the reef.
DEEP LOOK’S TURN TO DEFINE PLANKTON
Here’s a video on plankton from the estimable folks at PBS’ Deep Look program. It’s well worth viewing. Actually, I think“The Plankton: The Soup of Life” has more detail, but this has the videomatic advantage of showing more stuff in action.
TO DEFINE PLANKTON BY TYPES
There’s phytoplankton – essentially, forms of algae that survive by converting solar energy into nutritional glucose. And there’s zooplankton – animal organisms that survive by consuming other plankton. Actually, the true wild west of the ocean is at the plankton level. It’s a dog-eat-dog, or thing-eat-thing, environment.
And the next time You-Know-What Week comes along, remember that the plankton makes everything possible.