Plankton - Marine Biology,Scientific Paper

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Construction of a food web based on the species located in the Clyde Sea.


        We will be sampling the waters of the Clyde Sea to attempt to create a food web of the plankton recorded. We will examine the relationship between key species and inorganic and organic mater found in the waters. The diversity of plankton in the Clyde Sea is immense. We will only select a few species to create our food web, as creating a food web for the entire recorded species will be next to impossible for us.

        The Clyde Sea is situated on the South West coast of Scotland and is surrounded by the Shetland Islands mainland Scotland. The land masses that surround the Clyde sea offers great protection from strong prevailing winds and other whether fronts from the Atlantic to the wildlife located in the sea.

Materials and methods

        Water samples were taken form the Clyde Sea using Zooplankton nets. We had a range of different mesh sizes. The first was a course net: 710μm. The second was a medium mesh: 335μm. The third was a fine mesh: 142μm and the last was a very fine mesh size: 90μm. These different mesh sizes would hopefully catch a range of plankton from Mesozooplankton to Picoplankton.

        The water samples would be taken back to the lab where we would attempt to identify the individuals to species level. To do this we would use different microscopes, depending on the size of organism and identification guides. We had the option to either use a binocular microscope or a monocular microscope.


        Nutrients is vital for the survival and formation of a food web, it is essential for the growth of plankton. In the marine environment Nitrogen is usually the growth-limiting nutrient. Nitrogen exists in the marine environment as NO3-, NO2-, or NH4+. Organic compounds are found in the waters and also play a key role in maintaining the food web. Organisms feed on this as a food source. The most significant source of dissolved organic carbon is from phytoplankton. The main compounds of dissolved organic carbon are Carbohydrates, nitrogenous compounds, organic acids and lipids. The constant supply of organic compounds comes in the form of dead plankton. As plankton die they sink very slowly where microorganism feed on them. This is a key stage of the food web. Inorganic compounds have a very important role in food webs. Many organisms require this for living.

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        Hertotrophic nanoflagellates employ a wide range of feeding strategies. There are 3 main strategies adopted by Hertotrophic nanoflagellates for feeding, 1. the ingestion of whole cells, 2. use of a feeding tube called a peduncle and 3. use of a cytoplasmic veil e.g. pallium. Many Hertotrophic nanoflagellates compete with copeopods for ciliates and other microorganisms. Photosynthetic nanoflagellates only use light from the sun to produce energy. We found a great deal of mixotrophic ciliates in our sample. We focused our attention on Flavella spp. These mixotrophic ciliate photosynthesise, but also feed on live prey. Organisms like Flavella spp are extremely important, ...

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Overall this had the potential to be a really nice write up: a wide variety of plankton have been identified, and a good amount of background reading done in each instance. What it lacks though is:- An obvious results section, such as a list of species found - A clear structure (perhaps going through trophic level by trophic level) - A general separation of 'facts about this food web' vs 'facts about individual species' - Some proofreading! (Lots of simple grammatical errors, or awkward phrasing make this frustrating to read). As a result at my (Russell Group) university, this would score 3/5