Unseen tiny marine creatures serve as the foundation of all marine food webs

An international team of researchers has studied samples of plankton gathered during a 3-year long global expedition. The studied samples include 150,000 single-celled creatures and plants, 5,000 new viruses and 35,000 bacteria species.

According to the researchers, most species analyzed during the study are new to science. One of the main authors of the study Dr. Chris Bowler of National Centre for Scientific Research in Paris said that he and his colleagues have managed to come up with the most comprehensive description of planktonic organisms ever.

Bowler added that this latest study has allowed them to have a detailed catalogue of the protozoa, bacteria and viruses present in the ocean globally.

For those who don’t know: although the planktonic organisms are very minute in size, they constitute as much as 90% of the overall mass of marine life in oceans. These organisms include protozoa or single-celled creatures and plants, bacteria and viruses. They form the base of the food pyramid and are also responsible for producing almost 50% of the oxygen present in the air.


In spite of being so important for our planet, to date, scientists could gather very little information about these tiny oceanic organisms. Agnes B, the famous French fashion designer, wanted to change that by launching the Tara expedition.

An international research team set out on an expedition and carried out vigorous searches in the ocean onboard a schooner called Tara. The schooner covered a distance of 30,000 km as it traveled across all the oceans of the world. They gathered samples from all parts of the ocean starting from the topmost layer to areas located 1,000 meters below the waves. For making this mega project successful, the promoters of the study had to spend around 10 million Euros.


During this expedition, the researchers have come to know that a large share of the tiny oceanic organisms is sensitive to temperature; this trait is more common in the newly discovered bacteria species.

According to Dr. Bowler, the main factor considered when determining the community of the newly identified organisms is temperature. He further said that the organisms discovered by them are more sensitive to temperature than any other external factor. You can read the entire study in the journal Science.