What Do Plankton Eat?

We journey through the world’s oceans to discover what do plankton eat. Planktons are small and microscopic organisms that live in fresh or seawater. Plankton isn’t a species, it’s the name for a large group of organisms that live in the waters of the world; such as krill, jellyfish, and the eggs and larvae of larger animals.

Even sea salp colonies that can grow up to ten meters in length are considered plankton. However, most of the plankton in the ocean can be categorized as plants.

What do plankton eat?

Planktons are photosynthetic organisms; they can manufacture their own food by means of photosynthesis just like what plants do!

Planktons get their energy from sunlight, just like plants do, using a process called photosynthesis. The answer to what do plankton eat? It is very similar to asking what plants eat too. Many creatures in the ocean eat plankton.

They form the base of the ocean’s complex food chain. Plankton is very small, and because they are so tiny, they are too weak to swim, therefore they simply drift in the water. Planktos literally means ‘made to wander’.

Plankton also needs to consume nutrients such as nitrogen, phosphorous, iron and silicic acid, to survive and reproduce. They then convert these nutrients into proteins and carbohydrates. Just like other living organisms, plankton also needs trace elements of silicon and calcium to thrive.

Plankton is primarily divided into four broad categories: Phytoplankton, Zooplankton, Bacterioplankton, and Mycoplankton. Although smaller plankton obtains their food through photosynthesis, larger plankton will actually feed on smaller groups of plankton.

So, when we ask, what do planktons eat? The answer is sometimes, plankton! Zooplankton generally encompasses bigger plankton creatures, whilst phytoplankton, bacterioplankton, and mycoplankton are smaller in size.

What animals eat plankton?

Now that we know what do planktons eat, what animals eat plankton? Shrimp and krill are plankton feeders. The most famous animal that consumes plankton are whales, specifically, baleen whales.

Baleen whales are named after their long baleen bristle-like hairs that hang from their jaws, which filter sea-water to extract krill and plankton from it. Jellyfish, which are considered large zooplankton, eat smaller phytoplankton.

What kind of fish eat plankton?

Typically, fish that eat plankton are known as ‘forage fish’. Forage fish are fish that search for food and do not hunt prey. Forage fish are usually small, bait, or oily fish that travel in groups known as schools and shoals. Herrings; known as sardines and pilchards, anchovies, menhaden, capelin, smelts, sand lance, halfbeaks, pollock, butterfish, and juvenile rockfish, are all forage fish that eat plankton.

How do plankton get their food?

Plankton, in particular, phytoplankton, contain chlorophyll. Chlorophyll also exists in terrestrial plants. It is used to convert sunlight into energy in a process known as photosynthesis.

The majority of plankton float in the upper level of the ocean, known as the photic zone, where the nutrients they need can be found.  So, what do planktons eat apart from sunlight? Plankton obtains their necessary nutrients from algae, bacteria, waste and debris known as detritus, and in microscopic creatures such as rotifers and protozoa.

The nitrogen that plankton requires is formed naturally by the Earth’s atmospheric conditions that produce nitrogen gas, which plankton then extract from the water.

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