Scientists Say: Plankter

Plankton is the plural of this strange word


These tiny plankton float in the water, eating only other plankton and serving as food for larger creatures. When you refer to one of these organisms, you call it a plankter.

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Plankter (noun, “PLANK-tur”)

Plankton are tiny organisms that float in the water, some too small to see with the unaided eye. When you refer to just one of these organisms, you call it a plankter. Some (phytoplankton) are plant-like. Others (zooplankton) are microscopic animals. None can swim against a current. Instead, they just drift along. They might be algae, jellyfish, archea, bacteria or larvae of a larger animal. These organisms are an important source of food for many different kinds of animals, from small fish all the way up to whales.

In a sentence

Some scientists hope that giving each plankter an extra dose of iron might help them grow and reproduce. When each mineral-fortified plankter dies, it could take carbon dioxide from the atmosphere to the sea floor.

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Power Words

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algae     Single-celled organisms, once considered plants (they aren’t). As aquatic organisms, they grow in water. Like green plants, they depend on sunlight to make their food.

archaeon  (plural archaea) A domain of life that includes single-celled organisms. Although archaea superficially resemble bacteria, they are distinct. Archaea inhabit many harsh environments.

bacterium (plural bacteria)  A single-celled organism. These dwell nearly everywhere on Earth, from the bottom of the sea to inside animals.

larva  (plural: larvae) An immature life stage of an insect, which often has a distinctly different form as an adult.

Bethany Brookshire was a longtime staff writer at Science News Explores and is the author of the book Pests: How Humans Create Animal Villains. She has a Ph.D. in physiology and pharmacology and likes to write about neuroscience, biology, climate and more. She thinks Porgs are an invasive species.

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