pond planktonPond cam has being providing views of how rich the life is in the woodland pond. Some of the pond life is quite large, such as the fish and the newts. But some of it is very tiny, too small to see in detail but you can see lots of tiny creatures swimming in front of the webcam.

These are small freshwater animal plankton. The most common are called daphnia, cyclops and ostracods. In the spring, when the water becomes warmer, these  tiny creatures multiply in their thousands and will be an important food throughout the summer months too.

The easiest to spot is daphnia because they swim with an eye catching jerky swimming movement. This movement and the fact they have flat bodies has led to these tiny crustacean to be known as water fleas.

Daphnia feed on even smaller microscopic animals and microscopic plants and tiny particles on the water. In the video clip above you can see the beating movement of the legs inside the daphnia’s body which produce a current of water which carries both food and oxygen to the mouth and gills.

Daphnia are eaten by many pond animals including small fish, newt and damselfly nymphs. They are important links in many food chains.

Another tiny crustacean common in pond water is Cyclops, which only has one eye. They are easy to tell apart from the daphnia as they are longer bodied and more shrimp-like.

The Cyclops also swims with a jerky rowing movement with their long antennae. They also feed on microscopic plants and tiny floating particles. They are important food for other pond animals but their faster swimming makes them harder to catch than the daphnia. Female cyclops carry their eggs in two egg sacs near the tail end.

Ostracods are also tiny crustaceans. Their body shape resemble a bean and the body is enclosed in two halves of its body shell.

The ostracod swims using legs that stick out of the shell, but if alarmed it can pull its legs inside and close the two halves of the shell tight shut. Ostracod feed on microscopic plants and tiny specks of decaying plants. They are usually found swimming around the edges of a pond or ditch near to vegetation.

If you have a school pond, scoop up a container of water and see what you can find. Let us know what you see by commenting on this post.

Click on the link below for ideas on studying daphnia and other tiny pond creatures in the classroom. Observing daphnia