Check out a synonym finder and notice that all giants are not of great physical stature. Giants can also be entities of great influence, renowned, celebrated and more. And some of them are the size of a carrot seed.
The giants of which I speak? Water fleas. Cladacera. Best represented by a sub-group called daphnia.
Stay with the story and I bet you will agree. Tiny as they may be, daphnia indeed have a giant presence in our lakes. Can we see them with the naked eye? Sure can. Take a jar and wade into the shallows of a lake or pond that has reasonably clear water by some aquatic plants. Dip the jar into the water, then hold it to the light and look for creatures that propel themselves forward in a series of jerky motions, hence the name water “fleas.”
Here’s my case for bestowing giant-hood on these tiny creatures.
- Water fleas are extremely important food for young game fish. Without them, sac fry of walleye and other game fish would have a hard time growing to catchable size. Young and adult whitefish and tullibee eat them, too.
- Daphnia filter feed on other aquatic life smaller than themselves. Favored foods include bacteria and other tiny creatures. The most important part of their diet? Algae! Many of whom reduce lake water clarity. Water fleas draw water into their bodies sifting out food items with feathery appendages. In small lakes, a healthy daphnian population can filter out a volume of water equal to the entire volume of the lake in a day.
- With all their algae-eating, daphnians have a huge positive impact on lake water clarity and help hold lake property values steady.
I rest my case.
We need a Daphnia Day celebration at the lake, to honor the contributions these tiny giant creatures make to the lakes we love.
Question of the Week:
Scientists have been analyzing the genetic code of human and many other life forms to discover the composition and number of genes each has. This week’s question: Of all the different kinds of life studied so far, which has the largest number of genes?
Daphnia! They have 5,000 more genes than humans.