Plankton: Wonders of the Drifting World
Christian Sardet, Mark Ohman
Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub
Author note: Prologue by Mark Ohman
Ask anyone to picture a bird or a fish and a series of clear images will immediately come to mind. Ask the same person to picture plankton and most would have a hard time conjuring anything beyond a vague squiggle or a greyish fleck. This book will change that forever.
Viewing these creatures up close for the first time can be a thrilling experience—an elaborate but hidden world truly opens up before your eyes. Through hundreds of close-up photographs, Plankton transports readers into the currents, where jeweled chains hang next to phosphorescent chandeliers, spidery claws jut out from sinuous bodies, and gelatinous barrels protect microscopic hearts. The creatures’ vibrant colors pop against the black pages, allowing readers to examine every eye and follow every tentacle. Jellyfish, tadpoles, and bacteria all find a place in the book, representing the broad scope of organisms dependent on drifting currents.
Christian Sardet’s enlightening text explains the biological underpinnings of each species while connecting them to the larger living world. He begins with plankton’s origins and history, then dives into each group, covering ctenophores and cnidarians, crustaceans and mollusks, and worms and tadpoles. He also demonstrates the indisputable impact of plankton in our lives. Plankton drift through our world mostly unseen, yet they are diverse organisms that form ninety-five percent of ocean life. Biologically, they are the foundation of the aquatic food web and consume as much carbon dioxide as land-based plants. Culturally, they have driven new industries and captured artists’ imaginations.
While scientists and entrepreneurs are just starting to tap the potential of this undersea forest, for most people these pages will represent uncharted waters. Plankton is a spectacular journey that will leave readers seeing the ocean in ways they never imagined.
Dinoflagellates are most often photosynthetic, like plants, but some species also feed on bacteria or fellow protists, as do animals, while still others adopt both strategies. Some dinoflagellates can survive only as parasites. Dinoflagellate cells have an envelope, but unlike diatoms, their carapace is organic, made of cellulose. Most dinoflagellates produce and secrete their carapace as plates, which can be very ornate. Despite their hard shells, diatoms and dinoflagellates are at the base of
small, suspended plastic particles—the “synthetic plankton”—can concentrate not only in coastal environments, but in the great midocean gyres, with as yet unknown consequences for ocean ecosystems. Addressing these challenges will require enhanced understanding of the processes regulating plankton populations and their adaptions to environmental change. For many years I have sought a book that communicates to the nonscientist the exceptional diversity of form and function in the planktonic world
subula (left), Creseis acicula (middle hiding inside its shell) and Creseis conica (right) are all thecosomes, a category derived from the Greek theque (“casing”). Through their transparent calcium shells, hepatic glands and digestive organs are visible, colored orange, yellow, or green, depending on what the mollusk eats. Plankton collected in the bay of Villefranche-sur-Mer in winter. 169 PTEROPODS GYMNOSOMES Quick as Torpedoes Among the fifty known species of gymnosome pteropods,
chromatophores. When these spread out, the cells reflect light, turning the skin vivid colors. In contrast, when chromatophore cells contract into tiny dots, the skin loses its colors. True chameleons of the ocean, cephalopods also use their repertoire of color changes to communicate with one another. PLANKTONIC JUVENILES Opposite page: Juvenile Octopus vulgaris (top). Photo by Stefan Siebert, Brown University, USA. Young squid of the family Gonatidae (middle). Photo by Karen Osborn,
CENOZOIC 65 CRETACEOUS 146 JURASSIC TRIASSIC PERMIAN 200 250 SILURIAN 360 410 440 ORDOVICIAN PROTEROZOIC Formation of the Atlantic and Indian ocean basins FLOWERING PLANTS BIRDS EXTINCTION 4 Fragmentation of the continents DINOSAURS AND MAMMALS CENTRIC DIATOMS, COCCOLITHOPHORES extinction of trilobites EXTINCTION 3 One continent: Pangaea One ocean: Panthalassa REPTILES, NEMATODES EXTINCTION 2 AMPHIBIANS, INSECTS, CRUSTACEANS, FUNGI TERRESTRIAL PLANTS EXTINCTION 1 COLONIZATION