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Planktonic life of our waterways

From November to March, 6 sites were sampled monthly using a plankton net and the variety of life that was discovered was astounding.

Planktonic life of our waterways

This summer saw the start of Sunshine Coast Council’s environment levy project into climate induced marine species migration. Experts from CSIRO assisted council in developing the project with the best sampling techniques and site selection. Dr Lisa-Ann Gershwin has been invaluable with the species identification of some of the amazing microscopic sea creatures that we have found living in our waterways.

From November to March, 6 sites were sampled monthly using a plankton net and the variety of life that was discovered was astounding. Some of the regular zooplankton captured included ctenophores (Pleurobrachia spp.) like the one in this video. Watch for the bioluminescence as the cilia on the outside of its bell beats makes it swim through the water.

Pleurobrachia bioluminescence

Ctenophores, or sea gooseberries, feed on plankton by extending their feeding tentacles and ‘sweeping‘ the water column for food as the cilia help them to swim. Ctenophores are fairly small in size ranging from several millimetres like the one in the video to a couple of centimetres. During the summer surveys ctenophores were regularly captured; as were a number of other common species such as Eirene, a small bell shaped clear jelly and Muggiaea, a bullet shaped jelly which uses its feeding tentacles for propulsion through the water.

Surveys to monitor any climate induced changes to our planktonic communities will continue each summer for the next three years with assistance from CSIRO, Queensland Museum and advice from James Cook University and Griffith University.

Written by Raeleen Draper, coastal projects and permits officer, Sunshine Coast Council