The Secret Life of Plankton

[Stories from the Sea] [Fish Tale
My Secret Life as Plankton] How did I get here? Well, it’s a stranger story
than you might think. I came from a world of drifters, a place few humans have ever seen. The world of plankton. I came from a batch of a million eggs,
and only a few of us survived. When I became a larva,
I moved among other drifters. [“Plankton” comes from the Greek
“planktos” for wandering] My fellow plankton came in all sizes,
from tiny algae and bacteria to animals longer than a blue whale. I shared my nursery
with other embryos and juveniles, from clams and crabs
to sea urchins and anemones. (High pitch sound) We drifting animals
are called zooplankton. The most common animals here
are copepods and krill. (Buzzing) You could search the world over, but you’d never find a place
more diverse than my childhood home. A teaspoon of seawater can contain more
than a million living creatures. It can be a pretty tough
existence, though. Trillions are born here,
but only a few make it to adulthood. He may be no larger than a pin head, but this crab larva
is an arrow worm’s worst nightmare. (Bumping noises) (Buzzing) Epic battles between carnivores
like these are just one way to get food. But the real powers
of this place come from phytoplankton. Single-celled life that transforms sunlight
and carbon dioxide into edible gold. Phytoplankton are the base
for the largest food web in the world. During the night, many animals like me
would rise up from the depths to feed on this sun-powered feast. (Maraca sound) I was part of the largest daily
migration of life on Earth. During the day, I’d return to the darkness,
where I’d join my bizarre companions. (High pitch buzz) (Flapping noises) Cannibals, like this
sea butterfly mollusk, that eats its next of kin. And comb jellies, that beat cilia like rainbowed eyelashes. Some of these snare
their prey with sticky tentacles, while others just take
a bite out of their cousins. And siphonophores that catch prey with toxic fishing lures. But my favorite would have
to be the crustacean Phronima. Its monstrous looks inspired
the movie “Aliens.” It can catch tiny bits in its bristles, but prefers larger prey like salps. With two sets of eyes,
this female prowls the deeper water. Prey in hand, she performs one
of the strangest behaviors in the entire animal kingdom. With body parts from her victims, she delicately assembles
a barrel-like home feeding her young until they can drift off
and survive on their own. Best of all, they make the perfect
snack for a small fish like me. Here among the plankton, the food web is so tangled and complex, even scientists don’t know who eats whom. But I do. At least now you know a bit of my story. There’s so much more to me
than just a tasty meal.

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