Q:

What do plankton eat?

A:

Quick Answer

The term "plankton" encompasses many different creatures, so the food plankton eat is varied. Phytoplankton, zooplankton and bacterioplankton all use different sources of energy for food.

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Full Answer

One of the most important types of plankton is phytoplankton. Like land-based food chains, marine food chains begin with creatures capable of producing food from nutrients and sunlight. Phytoplankton do not eat in a traditional sense: They produce energy through photosynthesis. These tiny organisms provide a foundation for aquatic food chains. Zooplankton, however, do consume external food sources. The zooplankton group is broader than many would expect. It includes a variety of single-celled organisms but also includes creatures such as jellyfish. These creatures will consume other plankton or sea life. For instance, a jellyfish can eat plankton, fish eggs, small fish or even other jellyfish. Many zooplankton consume their food by enveloping it and slowly digesting it. The final group of plankton works in the same way land bacteria does. Bacterioplankton decompose organic matter and convert it into usable energy. They traditionally do not eat living creatures, but instead break down matter that has died or is unusable by other sea life. Like land bacteria, bacterioplankton provide a valuable service by removing waste from the water and adding a variety of nutrients.

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Related Questions

  • Q:

    What eats plankton?

    A:

    Numerous organisms in the sea consume plankton, including all baleen whales like blue whales and bowhead whales, fish like whale sharks and other filter-feeders. Plankton have long been attributed as the foundation of the ocean food web, and can be separated into two distinct and different groups: phytoplankton and zooplankton. Both have contributed immensely to the ecosystem by harvesting energy through photosynthesis and converting it into essential nutrients.

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  • Q:

    What do sea horses eat?

    A:

    Sea horses are carnivores and primarily eat small crustaceans and plankton. They are best known for being the only member of the animal kingdom where the males give birth to the babies. However, they also have an unusual digestive system because they do not have stomachs or teeth.

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  • Q:

    What do mussels eat?

    A:

    Mussels are filter feeders that filter microscopic aquatic life, such as plankton, from the water around them. The larvae of some mussel species are temporarily parasitic.

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  • Q:

    What are plankton's predators?

    A:

    The predators of plankton include whales, sharks and many different types of invertebrates. Many species of plankton feed on other types of plankton, sometimes even cannibalizing their own species.

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