We imagine plankton as incredibly small creatures floating in the ocean, and perhaps winding up as food for baleen whales. But plankton are not all microscopic, and are not all unrecognizable to laypeople.
Art by Anke Fachmann Story by Danielle O’Farrell
Published: February, 2017
We imagine plankton as incredibly small creatures floating in the ocean, and perhaps winding up as food for baleen whales. But plankton are not all microscopic, and are not all unrecognizable to laypeople. In fact, plankton as a category includes any creature that cannot move by its own power in the water currents.
This includes the early developmental stages of many familiar and larger marine animals—like the baby squid pictured to the right in this month’s artwork. After emerging from egg sacs, the squid already look like the adults will, but their small size makes them unable to move by their own power. In this early developmental stage, the squid are planktonic, and they also consume smaller plankton as food.
After hatching with their siblings, the movements of the water disperse the young squid and dictate where they go until they grow to a size where their actions are not overpowered by the water. At that point they are no longer planktonic, but become nektonic. However, there are thousands of other types of plankton: jellyfish, early stages of fish and crabs, and small organisms that use carbon dioxide and the sun’s light to produce oxygen to name a few.
As both a food source and a developmental stage for many organisms, plankton are the foundation of most marine ecosystems. They affect life from coral reefs, to intertidal zones, to the deep sea.
Plankton, like much other ocean life, is under constant threat from human activity, such as chemical pollution of the oceans. Plankton can be hard to protect, as it moves with water currents and exists in many parts of the ocean. You can become part of the solution for protecting plankton with the San Francisco-based organization SaveNature.Org through its Adopt-a-Reef program.
For more information, go to www.savenature.org.
Anke Fachmann is a graphic designer and artist who currently focuses on portraying endangered species. Transforming animals into artistic, colorful paintings and illustrations gives them a platform to be seen. Treehoppers, tarsiers, maleos and many more come to life on canvas and paper with the use of oil pastels, ink and acrylic paint, which the artist applies with her fingers. Follow her on www.instagram.com/daily_plover or go to www.thoughtsbecomeimages.com.