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The hidden beauty of plankton: Incredible microscopic sea creatures caught on camera

Bobbing away in the dark depths of the ocean, these tiny creatures display a unique beauty that few get to truly appreciate.

And the latest publication by a scientist who studies these microscopic animals is set to become an unlikely bestseller – all thanks to the beauty of plankton.

His coffee table book about the amazing life forms that live unseen in the oceans has dozens of remarkable photographs taken through a microscope.

Amazing life forms: Dr Richard Kirby's passion for plankton has led to a set of marvellous pictures of the tiny creatures which feature in his book Ocean Drifters, a secret world beneath the wavesAmazing life forms: Dr Richard Kirby’s passion for plankton has led to a set of marvellous pictures which feature in his book Ocean Drifters, a secret world beneath the waves like these tiny Jellyfish

Hidden beauty: Stunning images of a horseshoe worm (left) and a moon jelly fish
Hidden beauty: Stunning images of a horseshoe worm (left) and a moon jelly fish

Hidden beauty: Stunning images of a Horseshoe worm (left) and a Moon Jellyfish

The book also points out that without the miniature creatures we would have no fish, oil, gas or clouds, and the sea would lose its distinctive smell.

The images show the variety of micro marvels and mini monsters that live in the sea, including tiny jelly fish and urchins, sea butterflies and sea angels.

There are minute fish, spaghetti worms, larvae, fish eggs and every shape that nature has the power to create.

Many of the little creatures have been magnified hundreds of times so they can be clearly seen.

The crab zoea has javelin-like spines that are longer than its body and the paddle worm, almost transparent to the naked eye, looks like a rowing boat with oars either side.

With explanations about the plankton and astonishing facts included in the text that are based on years of research, the book is tipped to be a Christmas present hit.

Dr Kirby says the importance of plankton is not widely understood and he hopes his book will spread their appeal.

The plankton food web underpins the whole marine food chai, from fish to oceanic sea birds such as petrels and kittiwakes that eat them.

Tiny creatures: Images of Sea Angels (left) and Acantharea
Tiny creatures: Images of Sea Angels (left) and Acantharea

Tiny creatures: Images of Sea Angels (left) and Acantharea

Magnified; A starfish (left) and a temperate copepod female carrying eggs
Magnified: A starfish (left) and a temperate copepod female carrying eggs

Magnified: A Starfish (left) and a temperate copepod female carrying eggs

And of course the some of the largest mammals on earth – baleen whales – feed upon the smallest creatures in the sea.

There would be no White Cliffs of Dover without plankton and anyone who has swum in the sea has probably swallowed them unknowingly.

The book is called Ocean Drifters, a secret world beneath the waves, and was compiled by the boffin because of the incredible reaction his photographs received from the public.

As a Royal Society University Research Fellow and scientist at the University of Plymouth, Dr Kirby’s usual academic publications have a limited readership.

But this latest release costing £14.99 will appeal to a whole new audience.

Dr Kirby, 45, said: ‘Go for a walk across the South Downs and the chalk underneath your feet is the remains of plankton deposited beneath the seas over 65 million years ago.

‘It is plankton that also give the sea its distinctive smell referred to as the “sea air” because certain phytoplankton – the plant-like plankton – give off aromatic chemicals when they die.

‘And they are even responsible for forming clouds because the same chemicals when in the atmosphere cause water droplets to form around them.

‘Most people are unaware of their presence, but if you have been swimming in the sea you will have almost certainly have swallowed them.

Micro marvels: A zoea larva of crabs (left) and sea anemone larvae
Micro marvels: A zoea larva of crabs (left) and sea anemone larvae

Micro marvels: A Zoea larva of crabs (left) and Sea anemone larvae

‘The importance of plankton on a global scale is obvious when you realize that 50 per cent of the world’s photosynthesis takes place in the surface of the sea, drawing carbon from the atmosphere into the oceans.

‘The carbon in oil and gas represents the dead remains of plankton that became buried in sediments after they sank to the sea bed over thousands of millions of years of time.

‘When we burn oil and gas we are releasing the carbon it contains back to the atmosphere over a much shorter time scale than it was sequestered by the plankton, influencing our climate.

‘With sea temperatures rising as a result of the warming climate, the numbers and distribution of the plankton are changing with ramifications for the whole marine food chain, and the ecology of our planet.

‘Although you may be unaware of their presence, you will have travelled with them if you have sailed across the sea and you will have smelled their presence from the sea shore, your car is fuelled by their remains and over millions of years they created some of the most enigmatic features of our coastline.’

The book is published by Studio Cactus Ltd.

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-1316550/Incredible-microscopic-sea-creatures-caught-camera.html#ixzz112hWZyNJ

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