Microaggregations of Oceanic Plankton Observed by Towed Video Microscopy

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Science  10 Jul 1992:
Vol. 257, Issue 5067, pp. 230-232
DOI: 10.1126/science.257.5067.230


Oceanic plankton have been hypothesized to occur in micropatches (<10 meters) that can have a large impact on marine ecosystem dynamics. Towed video microscopy was used to unobtrusively determine distributions of oceanic plankton over a continuum of scales from microns to hundreds of meters. Distinct, taxa-specific aggregations measuring less than 20 centimeters were found for copepods but not for nonmotile (cyanobacterial colonies) or asexual (doliolid phorozooids) forms, which suggests that these small patches are related to mating. Significant patchiness was also found on larger scales and was correlated among taxa, indicating physical control. These video observations provide new insights into basic plankton ecology by allowing quantitative assessment of individual plankton in their natural, undisturbed state.

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