Friday, July 24, 2015

Horror inspiring zooplankton, Ron Brown edition

Here are some zooplankton you wouldn’t want to meet in a dark alley! First up is Phronima sp. – a hyperiid amphipod that is said to the be the inspiration for the creature from the Alien movies. Females burrow into the bodies of unfortunate gelatinous zooplankton (like salps and jellyfish) to make a cozy home, then lay their eggs inside of the corpse. These creatures sound like they are straight out of a horror movie, but luckily for us they are only about the size of a quarter.

Photo 1: Phronima sp. captured in the 505 µm Bongo net. Photo credit: Caitlin Smoot.

Next up is a predatory copepod called Paraeuchaeta. The animals pictured below are around the size of a grain of rice. They prey on other copepods, but can prey on fish eggs too. We were lucky enough to collect female and male specimens in our 150 µm Bongo net. The male (bottom) uses his specialized fifth pair of swimming legs to transfer a sperm packet, or spermatophore, to the female’s genital segment in order to fertilize her eggs. The female from our net (top) has a spermatophore attached to her genital segment.

Photo 2: Female and male copepods (Paraeuchaeta sp.) collected in the 150 µm Bongo net. Photo credit: Caitlin Smoot.

Check out this link to the Plankton Chronicles for a great video of Phronima in action:

Until next time…be glad you’re not a salp!


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