Friday, March 11, 2011

Cyclops - the copepod

Check out the copepods carefully drawn above. While I cannot speak to the total accuracy of some of the colors and features - the main parts are there.
1. One eye spot (compound eye)
2. Two prominent antennae
3. An exoskeleton, showing their relationship to other crustaceans (think shrimp, etc.)

Most copepods feed on phytoplankton (plant plankton) and store the energy as oil droplets (helps them float too).

However - a few of the larger ones eat other copepods.

People who have aquariums and folks involved with aquaculture love copepods - as a type of food for their inverts or juvenile animals. Copepods are small little protein packets (if raised on a healthy diet) and can be fed dried, frozen or live. You can even select for the size, depending on species and life stage! We have a jar of dried "Cyclopeze" brand food for our touch table for instance.

Finally, in your next plankton lab, watch them move. They seem to jump across the slide. In fact, the length and frequency of the jump may help them select their mates. Different species have different patterns. The male of the wrong species will not be able to sync with an inappropriate female.

Check out the Wikipedia Copepod page for a general overview and links to other sites.
I like the Smithsonian World of the Copepod page and, of course, who can miss the "Virtual Copepod."



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