An international team of scientists from Israel, the United States and Germany, led by Prof. Amatzia Genin of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the Interuniversity Institute for Marine Sciences in Eilat, has provided, for the first time, evidence of the remarkable dynamics responsible for the formation of large aggregations of microscopic animals in the ocean.
From the surface, the ocean appears to be vast and uniform. But beneath the surface, countless number of tiny, nearly transparent animals, called zooplankton, are swept into clusters and patches by ocean currents. The very survival of many zooplankton predators—from invertebrates to whales—and the success of fishermen catches can depend on their success at finding those patches. The new findings indicate that zooplankton are passively drifting with the current, as their name implies (“planktos” = “drifting” in Greek), but only in the horizontal direction, not in the vertical. Indeed, in the vertical, these creatures show a great ability to go “against the flow.”
Although scientists and fishermen have known for a long time that zooplankton spend their life suspended in a constantly flowing environment, an understanding of their responses to ocean currents has remained elusive, mainly due to technological limitations in tracking the motion of the minuscule animals.
Jerry Barach | Hebrew University
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