By Dr Judy Mann
Each drop of seawater is filled with life. This includes millions of tiny plants and animals that can only be seen with a microscope, including the eggs and larvae (babies) of fish and other marine animals.
All of the tiny plants are called phytoplankton, while the animals are called zooplankton. Plankton makes up the base of the food web in the ocean – all life in the ocean depends on healthy plankton. Some of the zooplankton in the ocean comprises the eggs and larval stages of many commercial fishery species. Healthy populations of fish, sharks, dolphins and whales are not possible without healthy ocean plankton.
This little video shows you some plankton. We regularly sample water from our exhibits in the aquarium. Often these water samples contain fish eggs. We grow these fish eggs out in a bespoke laboratory and are always excited to see which fish have been spawning in the aquarium.
Recently we were excited to see what may be stonefish or scorpionfish larvae – they are the ones with the big fins and red tummies. We will only be sure of what they are when they get a bit bigger.
Looking after these tiny animals is not easy – can you imagine trying to feed such tiny animals? To do this we have special cultures of tiny plants and animals that we use to feed the fish larvae. Scientific research suggests that seismic surveys, such as the one being proposed for the Wild Coast, may cause significant harm to zooplankton populations.