London, Dec 22 (ANI): A marine biologist has taken a series of stunning close up photographs of plankton to reveal the tiny creatures' complexity.
According to a report in the Telegraph, Dr Richard Kirkby, a Royal Society Research Fellow at the University of Plymouth, UK, took a series of water samples off the south west coast and photographed them at great magnification to show the plankton in detail.
The pictures show the two types of plankton: the plant-like phytoplankton, and the animal-like zooplankton.
The microorganisms are all under two millimeters long and virtually invisible to the naked eye.
The creatures live in the sunlit upper parts of the sea and are normally only identifiable as a murky swirl as they gather in millions.
The organisms form a food web without which there would be no marine life as we know it.
Among the varieties is one of the smallest animals related to humans; the doliolid that has a primitive back bone, called a notochord.
Some of the zooplankton are larvae and include tiny spider crabs, starfish and shrimps which grow into full size creatures.
Most fish, including the sardine, spawn their eggs in the plankton as it is such a good place for the young fish to feed, and it is these minute creatures that lure huge basking sharks to the waters in the summer to feed on.
Despite being largely invisible to the naked eye, plankton can be seen from space when they form massive blooms.
They are also responsible for consuming carbon dioxide (CO2) during photosynthesis, thus reducing the rising levels of the gas in the atmosphere.
"The reason behind photographing them was to try and help explain how the plankton world works," said Dr Kirby. "People who have seen them are surprised because they learn exactly what is in the sea when they go for a swim and what they even may swallow," he added.
"Among the plankton is one called a doliolid that has a rod-like group of cells that is a primitive back bone and is from the same group of animals as humans," he further added.
Dr Kirby is now set to unveil the photographs at an exhibition.
The photographs will form part of an exhibition that will be going to Blue Reef, Blue Planet and Deep Sea World aquariums across the UK throughout 2009. (ANI)