Photographer Jan van IJken
THESE mesmerising shots reveal the microscopic beauty of plankton – and their predators. They are part of a film and photo project called Planktonium by photographer Jan van IJken, who captured this diverse array of species in various Dutch waters, including puddles, lakes and seas.
Plankton form the base of marine and freshwater food webs. They consist of phytoplankton (plants) and zooplankton (animals). Their name derives from the Greek word for “drifter”, since they are too tiny to fight tides or currents. Phytoplankton oxygenate the ocean through photosynthesis, enabling marine animals to thrive, and produce about half the world’s oxygen.
Above are: a larva of a polychaete worm during a stage of its life cycle when it is considered to be a plankton; a diatom phytoplankton – which have see-through cell walls made of silica – called Licmophora flabellata; and another diatom, Coscinodiscus.
Next shows a single-celled radiolaria zooplankton, with internal skeletal structures and external spikes of silica. Below, a crustacean called a copepod gathers diatoms. Copepods feed on phytoplankton and tiny aquatic animals, and are a vital food source for larger species, such as fish. Last is another predator of plankton, the water flea Polyphemus pediculus, with two eggs in tow.
Van IJken admires the “beauty, fine detail and incredible shapes” of plankton. “Their invisibility to the naked eye makes it even more interesting to observe the tiny creatures,” he says.
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