Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Marine Snow: The top-down chain of life in the oceans


A fish and marine snow. From DeepSeaLife

The ocean is the least well known region of the world. This is shame because over seventy-percent of the world's surface is water, whether it be the ocean, artificially designated seas, lakes, or rivers. Once one gets past the first few feet of water human knowledge of what lies below becomes less and less. Compounding ignorance is the great disconnect of what scientists know that the average person does not.

One of the things many lay people do not know about is marine snow. Marine snow is a combination of dead or dying small animals like plankton or shrimp, plants, sand, fecal matter, sand, and sugars. The combination forms in clumps or string and is known as marine snow. The snow then falls from the upper layers of water all the way down to the bottom. All the way down to the bottom and then on the bottom a variety of lifeforms consume the snow for food. It is believed that animals which live in perpetual darkness receive most their energy from consuming marine snow.

Marine snow is effected by the environment. Whenever there is more life production on the surface (usually spring and summer) there is more snow. Scientists are finally looking into how pollution is affecting marine snow and lifeforms so deep that they were previously thought beyond the reach of human pollutants. Better understanding the marine snow cycle and all its variables will help in the comprehension of this important food chain.

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