What is plankton and Importance

Although at first glance the marine environment seems only a cavity full of water, the truth is that it has an organization in which different functions are fulfilled that are not only indispensable for this medium, but for the entire planet. Floating under the water line is a set of organisms called plankton and usually has microscopic sizes. The most interesting thing is that it not only houses a group, but multiple ways of life coexist here.

In this article we will explain what plankton is and what types there are, and you will also learn what is the importance it has for the whole planet.

What is plankton

Plankton is the whole of all organisms, whether animal or plant, living beneath the surface of the water, which can be both salty, as well as seas and oceans, such as freshwater, such as lakes, rivers or ponds. The characteristics of plankton are as follows:

  • They do not have swimming capacity, but they remain wandering adrift. Some may have crazies, scourges or structures that vibrate, but these are unimportant and are always surpassed by marine currents, which are those that mobilize plankton.
  • Another important quality is buoyancy. They lack heavy elements and their body density is low. They also use structures that help them stay afloat, such as gas-containing bubbles, tissues made up mostly of water, fat droplets, a viscous composition or the development of branched appendages.
  • Most plankton is transparent, so that it can be protected. The glands or muscle fibers do have color, but connective tissues are transparent.
  • The organisms living in plankton have organs of the senses modified in appendices, tentacles and balancing organs in order to interact with the environment around it.

Now, what kingdom does plankton belong to? There is not only one, and it is that this consists of several organisms of various kingdoms, which provide dynamism and that help to complete different functions. Here’s how we have the following realms inside the plankton:

  • Protozoa: to which the radio stations, the foraminifers or dinoflagellate correspond.
  • Chromist: refers to algae. Diatoms are very common in plankton. Here, plant plankton, which uses photosynthesis, is classified here. One example is cocolitophores, which have a shell made of calcium carbonate.
  • Archaea: they are single-celled organisms that lack a nucleus.
  • Bacteria: there is a wide variety of aquatic bacteria, as let us remember that these were one of the first life forms to exist.
  • Animalia: Many stages of animals are suspended in plankton. An example of animal plankton is the larvae of invertebrates.

Each type of plankton has particular characteristics. For example, some may be primary producers, which are the ones who make photosynthesis, while others are consumers. Some have the capacity to shine, which is known as bioluminescent plankton. This capacity can occur in a wide variety of organisms, such as jellyfish, ctenophores, crustaceans, bacteria, dinoflagellates or radios. Bioluminescence is used as a defense mechanism, to attract food or partner, and occurs thanks to a chemical reaction.

Types of plankton

Plankton is very varied, and that is why it can be divided into different categories.

If we divide them according to their size we have:

  • Picoplancton: is the one who measures less than 2 microns.
  • Nanoplancton: measures 2 to 20 microns.
  • Microplankton: from 20 to 200 microns.
  • Mesoplankton: goes from 200 microns to 2 centimeters.
  • Macroplancton: 2 to 20 centimeters.
  • Megaplancton: measures 20 centimeters from now on.

Plankton can now be classified in relation to the life cycle. In this way it exists:

  • Ictioplancton: consists of eggs and larvae of fish that live suspended in plankton. Once they grow up, they move to the water column where they can swim.
  • Meroplankton: they are organisms that have phases in their life cycle both in plankton and outside. One example is the larvae of invertebrates.
  • Holoplancton: They are organisms that live throughout the cycle adrift in plankton.

Another type of classification is according to your taxonomic group, differentiating from the following types of plankton:

  • Fitoplankton: are all those plant organisms that make photosynthesis, such as microscopic single-celled algae, multicellular algae visible to the naked eye, or protozoa with chloroplasts. They are primary producers who are the basis of the food chain.
  • Zooplankton: are the animal organisms that live in plankton. It is also known as animal plankton. What characterizes this group is that their diet is heteropha, that is, they cannot produce their own food. They can be protozoa, eggs of invertebrates or fish.
  • Bacterioplankton: is made up of aquatic bacteria and has regulatory functions in biochemical cycles.
  • Virioplancton: Viruses are the most abundant organisms in natural bodies of water. They also play a role in the trophic chain, as viral infections regulate the populations of single-celled algae and bacteria.

Importance of plankton

Plankton is key to a number of processes and for a huge number of living things. In the first instance, plankton is a food source for animals from various groups, ranging from sea sponges to huge leaking whales. Thanks to it, a balance is maintained in the trophic chain.

Afterwards, we have the importance of the marine plankton that takes photosynthesis. We believe that forests are primarily responsible for the oxygen we breathe, but the reality is that 70% of that oxygen comes from phytoplankton. Conversely, animal plankton provides carbon needed for the trophic chain.

Finally, the foraminifers and radio stations are responsible for much of the marine sediment and sand. They have shells that can be limestone, silceous or calculus that go down to the bottom when the protozoa dies to build the seabed.

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