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Difference Between Zooplankton and Phytoplankton

zooplanktonZooplankton vs Phytoplankton

Have you ever seen the glow of a million tiny bulbs on the oceans at times? These are planktons-tiny organisms that drift along the surface of fresh water. The word plankton originates from the Greek word that means a drifter or a wanderer. There are basically two categories of plankton. Though they are similar in size and ecological importance, there is a world of difference between them.

  • Basic difference
    The most obvious difference between them is that zooplankton is an animal while phytoplankton is actually a plant. Diatoms and algae are two forms of phytoplankton that are commonly seen. Tiny fish or crustaceans like krill are examples of zooplankton.
  • Difference in food habits
    Since phytoplankton is a plant, it naturally follows that they source their own food. Sunlight is routinely converted by these amazing life forms into food by the process of photosynthesis.
    Zooplankton depends on the phytoplankton and other particulate matter that is found in the water for food. Phytoplankton is the chief food source for the zooplankton!
  • Difference in habitat
    As phytoplankton is primarily dependant on sunlight as their food source, they tend to prefer the surface of the water. You will find a lot phytoplankton near the water surface during the day. Zooplankton is just the opposite in this regard. They prefer the darker and cooler areas of the ocean. These are areas which are not frequented by sunlight. They travel to the surface of the water during daytime.
  • Ecological importance
    Both zooplankton and phytoplankton are indicators of ocean health. What do we mean?
    You see, these wonderful creatures are very susceptible to changes in the marine environment. Any change in the acid content or even the temperature of the water, caused by pollution or acid runoffs, has a devastating impact on planktons. Therefore, any change in the pattern of phytoplankton in the waters can indicate danger to the marine environment.
    The most common phytoplankton indicator of trouble is a red tide. This is a situation where harmful algae build up in the waters. It can release enough toxicity to kill off a host of marine life like small fishes.
  • Release of oxygen
    Phytoplankton releases a lot of oxygen into the atmosphere through the process of photosynthesis. However, this is not true in case of zooplankton.

Summary:
1.  Phytoplankton are plants, while zooplankton are animals
2. Phytoplankton is found on the surface of the water, where there is a lot of sunlight. Zooplankton frequents the darker and cooler places in the waters.
3. Phytoplankton makes its own food through photosynthesis while zooplankton survives on other life forms in the waters.
4. Any visible changes in the amount or type of phytoplankton in the water indicates a change in ocean health
5. Phytoplankton release oxygen through the process of photosynthesis.


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5 Comments

  1. Plankton are protists, not plants or animals. They may be plant-like or animal-like, but they are neither.

  2. i hate schoool and scienceee and my assistant principal

  3. Your article is a good one and also educative enough. Thanks.

  4. Phytoplanktons are sometimes known as plants as they prepare their own food by photosynthesis.They are also in the first energy level in food chains. Zooplanktons are microscopic animals which are in the second energy level in food chains.

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