Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Phytoplankton and Zooplankton

Luke studied phytoplankton and zooplankton in his Science Extra class yesterday. Mr. Jenkins, his teacher, spent last year on an ocean vessel studying plankton, and brought back samples to examine under the microscope.

The kids were asked to draw the different things they saw, and then label them as either phytoplankton or zooplankton. What's the difference between the two? Here's how Luke explained it to me:

"Phytoplankton is the start of the food chain. It's the smallest plankton. The zooplankton are bigger, so they eat the phytoplankton. Then these really small fish eat the zooplankton. Then a bigger fish eats the smaller fish. Then a bigger fish eats those fish. Then an even bigger fish eats those fish. Now I'm up to this big." [He holds his hands 12" apart.] Then a seal eats those fish. And... Umm... a polar bear eats the seals."

"What eats polar bears?" I ask.

"Umm... nothing," he replies.

At which, Becky chimes in, "Maybe if you're an Eskimo you eat polar bears."

"I bet they taste like pork chops," I offer.

"Yeah," Luke continues, "but it all starts in the Atlantic."

Of course, my favorite plankton is still the elusive evilgeniusplankton, shown below.

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