Q:

What do plankton eat?

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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 are some facts about plankton?

    A:

    Plankton consist of very tiny organisms located in marine and freshwater environments, according to the Encyclopedia of the Earth. The three very broad essential types of plankton are phytoplankton, zooplankton and bacterioplankton. These organisms frequently represent the bottom of the food chain in aquatic environments and are key to maintaining ecological balance.

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  • Q:

    Is plankton a producer or decomposer?

    A:

    Plankton can be producers, consumers or recyclers, depending on which trophic level they belong to. All plankton are classified as one of three types: phytoplankton, zooplankton and bacterioplankton.

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  • Q:

    How long do plankton live?

    A:

    Most animal plankton (zooplankton) and plant plankton (phytoplankton) live several months, but some species may live for more than a year. However, there are thousands of species of plankton, making it impossible to pinpoint a specific average life span that can apply to all plankton species.

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  • Q:

    What is marine life?

    A:

    Marine life is the term for the living organisms that live in the ocean from coral polyps to northern fur seals and orca whales. An international project called the "Census of Marine Life" took 10 years and discovered an additional 1,200 marine species.

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