Image Gallery: Phytoplankton

Phytoplankton are tiny, photosynthetic organisms. This means they can manufacture their own food using energy from sunlight, producing oxygen as a by-product. They are often referred to as tiny plants because of this ability to photosynthesise, but many species of phytoplankton are more closely related to protists and bacteria than true plants. Phytoplankton typically range in size from 0.002 mm to 1 mm and include diatoms, dinoflagellates, Radiolaria, Ciliata and Cyanobacteria (better known as ‘blue-green algae’).

Phytoplankton produce more oxygen than all plant life on earth and are vital in maintaining the earth’s atmosphere. They are also the organisms most likely to be affected by global warming and climate change. Scientists around the world are concerned that harmful rays from the sun could pass through the hole in the ozone layer and kill phytoplankton, which live mostly in the upper layers of the ocean.