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Overview

Brief Summary

Copepods are the 'water fleas of the sea'. Despite the fact that they are extremely small, they are found in the sea in enormous amounts. They belong to the group of zooplankton. They gather their food from the water with the help of a fine-meshed net of brush hairs located on sections of their mouth. They eat animals and algae smaller than themselves. Lots of marine animals, for example, barnacles, shellfish, sea squirts, fish such as herring and mackerel and even various species of whales, live off of these mini-crustaceans. This makes copepods the most important link between the microscopic plankton and the other animal life in the sea.
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Comprehensive Description

The copepods include around 12,000 described species of mostly small aquatic crustaceans. Most are between 0.5 mm and 10 mm in length, but some free-living forms exceeed 1.5 cm and some parasitic forms may reach 25 cm. Copepods are extremely abundant in the ocean (from the surface to 5000 meters deep, including at least one species described from a hydrothermal vent), in freshwater, in estuarine habitats, and in interstitial habitats (i.e, between sand grains). The majority of known free-living copepods belong to the Calanoida, Harpacticoida, or Cyclopoida, although these groups also include some parasitic species. Calanoids have greatly elongated antennules. Most calanoids are planktonic and as a group they are very important primary consumers in both freshwater and marine food webs. Harpacticoids have a more worm-like shape, with (in contrast to both calanoids and cyclopoids) the posterior segments not much narrower than the anterior ones. Both the antennules and antennae are quite short in harparcticoids; cyclopoids have moderately long antennae, although never as long as the antennules of calanoids. The antennae are uniramous (i.e., unbranched) in cyclopoids, but biramous in calanoids and harpacticoids. Most harpacticoids are benthic (bottom-dwelling) and occur in a wide range of aquatic environments; at least a few freshwater and marine species are known to form cysts. Cyclopoids are found in both marine and freshwater habitats and most are planktonic. (Brusca and Brusca 2003)

The non-parasitic copepods move by crawling or swimming, using some or all of the thoracic limbs. Many of the planktonic forms have dense setae on their appendages, making them resistant to sinking. Calanoids are mainly planktonic feeders. Although benthic harpacticoids are often reported to be detritus feeders, many feed mainly on microorganisms living on the surface of detritus or sediment particles (e.g., diatoms, bacteria, and protists). (Brusca and Briusca 2003; Margulis and Chapman 2010)

Of the seven remaining orders, the Mormonilloida are planktonic; the Misophrioida are known from deep sea epibenthic habitats as well as anchialine caves in both the Atlantic and Pacific; and the Monstrilloida are planktonic as adults, but as larvae are endoparasites of gastropod mollusks, polychaete annelid worms, and occasionally echinoderms. Members of the orders Poecilostomatoida and Siphonostomatoida are exclusively parasitic. Siphonostomatoids are ectoparasites or endoparasites of various invertebrates as well as marine and freshwater fishes. They are often very tiny and may exhibit a reduction or loss of body segmentation. Poecilostomatoids parasitize invertebrates and marine fishes and may also show a reduced number of body segments. The Platycopioida are benthic copepods known mainly from marine caves. The Gelyelloida are known only from European groundwaters. (Brusca and Brusca 2003; Margulis and Chapman 2010)

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Ecology

Associations

Animal / parasite / endoparasite
larva of Camallanus kaapstaadi endoparasitises Copepoda

Animal / parasite / endoparasite
procercoid of Cephalochlamys namaquensis endoparasitises body cavity of Copepoda

Animal / epizoite
Epistylis lives on Copepoda

Animal / parasite / endoparasite
larva of Procamallanus xenopodis endoparasitises Copepoda

In Great Britain and/or Ireland:
Animal / predator
bladder of Utricularia vulgaris sens.lat. is predator of Copepoda

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Known predators

Copepoda (Harpacticoid copepods) is prey of:
Fundulus heteroclitus
Chonophorous genivittatus
Trematomus
Notothenidae
Trematomus borchgrevinki
Pleurogramma antarctica
Oxyurichthyes lonchotus
Palaemonetes
Kuhlia sandvicensis
Euphausiidae
Decapoda
Actinopterygii
Exocoetidae
Hyperiidae
Diaphus splendidus
Mola mola
Plectoptera
Odonata
Hemiptera
Cambarus bartonii
Chloroperla
Hydropsyche
Engraulis encrasicolus
Sardina pilchardus
Clupeidae
Chaoborus
Epischura
Mesocyclops
Acanthocyclops
Chaoborus flavicans
Alburnus alburnus
Blicca bjorkna
Alcidae
Phoca hispida
Cepphus
Appendicularia
Calanus
Acartia
Oithona-Oncaea type
Euchaeta
Centropages
Amphipoda
Euphausia
Chaetognatha
Medusae
Ctenophora
invertebrate predators
Aves
Catostomus commersoni
Pteropods
Copepoda
other worms
Anthozoa
Cnidaria
Crangon
Mysidae
Pandalidae
Urochordata
Ammodytes marinus
Clupea harengus
Alosa pseudoharengus
Scomber
Peprilus triacanthus
Actinonaias ellipsiformis
Tridonta arctica
Odontoceti
Notemigonus crysoleucas
Lepomis gibbosus
Notropis cornutus
Epishura lacustris
Cyclops vernalis
Mesocyclops edax
Tropocyclops prasinus
Leptodora kindtii
Semotilus atromaculatus
Perca flavescens
Micropterus salmoides
Ambloplites rupestris
Pomoxis nigromaculatus
Notemigonus crysoleucus
Diacyclops thomasi
Epischura lacustris
Asplanchna
Monogonanta
Polyphemus pediculus
Sprattus sprattus
Syngnathus rostellatus
Pollachius virens
Ammodytes tobianus
Pholis gunnellus
Zoarces viviparus
Pomatoschistus minutus
Pomatoschistus microps
Myxocephalus scorpius
Pleuronectes platessa
Platichthys flesus
Salmo trutta
Crangon crangon
Neomysis integer
Hemiuris communis
Lecithaster gibbosus
Derogenes varicus
Tetraphyllidae
Cestoda

Based on studies in:
USA: Rhode Island (Marine)
USA: Hawaii (Swamp)
Antarctic (Estuarine)
unknown (epipelagic zone, Tropical)
USA: Florida, Everglades (Estuarine)
USA, Northeastern US contintental shelf (Coastal)
USA: New York, Bridge Brook (Lake or pond)
USA: Florida, South Florida (Swamp)
Wales, River Rheidol (River)
Portugal (Estuarine)
Quebec (Lake or pond, Pelagic)
USA: Wisconsin, Little Rock Lake (Lake or pond)
Austria, Hafner Lake (Lake or pond)
Canada, high Arctic (Ice cap)
Pacific (Tropical)
Canada: Ontario (River)
Scotland (Estuarine)

This list may not be complete but is based on published studies.
  • S. W. Nixon and C. A. Oviatt, Ecology of a New England salt marsh, Ecol. Monogr. 43:463-498, from p. 491 (1973).
  • G. E. Walsh, An ecological study of a Hawaiian mangrove swamp. In: Estuaries, G. H. Lauff, Ed. (AAAS Publication 83, Washington, DC, 1967), pp. 420-431, from p. 426.
  • G. A. Knox, Antarctic marine ecosystems. In: Antarctic Ecology, M. W. Holdgate, Ed. (Academic Press, New York, 1970) 1:69-96, from p. 87.
  • G. E. Walsh, An ecological study of a Hawaiian mangrove swamp. In: Estuaries, G. H. Lauff, Ed. (AAAS Publication 83, Washington, DC, 1967), pp. 420-431, from p. 429.
  • L. D. Harris and G. B. Bowman, Vertebrate predator subsystem. In: Grasslands, Systems Analysis and Man, A. I. Breymeyer and G. M. Van Dyne, Eds. (International Biological Programme Series, no. 19, Cambridge Univ. Press, Cambridge, England, 1980), pp. 591-
  • J. R. E. Jones, A further ecological study of the river Rheidol: the food of the common insects of the main-stream, J. Anim. Ecol. 19:159-174, from p. 172 (1950).
  • L. Saldanha, Estudio Ambiental do Estuario do Tejo, Publ. no. 5(4) (CNA/Tejo, Lisbon, 1980).
  • T. S. Petipa, Trophic relationships in communities and the functioning of marine ecosystems: I. Studies in trophic relationships in pelagic communities of the southern seas of the USSR and in the tropical Pacific. In: Marine Production Mechanisms, M. J. D
  • W. E. Odum and E. J. Heald, The detritus-based food web of an estuarine mangrove community, In Estuarine Research, Vol. 1, Chemistry, Biology and the Estuarine System, Academic Press, New York, pp. 265-286, from p. 281 (1975).
  • N. V. Parin, Ichthyofauna of the Epipelagic Zone (Israel Program for Scientific Translations, Jerusalem, 1970; U.S. Department of Commerce Clearinghouse for Federal Scientific and Technical Information, Springfield, VA 22151), from p. 154.
  • M. R. Landry, A review of important concepts in the trophic organization of pelagic ecosystems, Helgolander wiss. Meeresunters. 30:8-17, from p. 12 (1977).
  • A. Baril, Effect of the water mite Piona constricta on planktonic community structure, M.Sc. Thesis, University of Ottawa, Canada (1983).
  • F. Schiemer, M. Bobek, P. Gludovatz, A. Ioschenkohl, I. Zweimuller and M. Martinetz, Trophische Interaktionen im Pelagial des Hafnersees, Sitzungsber. Akad. Wiss. Wien Math. Naturwiss. Kl. Abt. 1:191-209 (1982).
  • M. S. W. Bradstreet and W. E. Cross, Trophic relationships at High Arctic ice edges, Arctic 3(1)5:1-12, from p. 9 (1982).
  • W. E. Ricker, 1934. An ecological classification of certain Ontario streams. Univ. Toronto Studies, Biol. Serv. 37, Publ. Ontario Fish. Res. Lab. 49:7-114, from pp. 105-106.
  • Link J (2002) Does food web theory work for marine ecosystems? Mar Ecol Prog Ser 230:1–9
  • Havens K (1992) Scale and structure in natural food webs. Science 257:1107–1109
  • Martinez ND (1991) Artifacts or attributes? Effects of resolution on the Little Rock Lake food web. Ecol Monogr 61:367–392
  • Hall SJ, Raffaelli D (1991) Food-web patterns: lessons from a species-rich web. J Anim Ecol 60:823–842
  • Huxham M, Beany S, Raffaelli D (1996) Do parasites reduce the chances of triangulation in a real food web? Oikos 76:284–300
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Known prey organisms

Copepoda (Harpacticoid copepods) preys on:
detritus
epontic microalgae
Bacillariophyceae
Chlamydomonas
Gadiformes
Dinoflagellata
periphyton
phytoplankton
green algae
particulate organic matter
bacteria
nannoplankton
microflagellates and perhaps bacteria
Bacillariophyta
ciliates and nauplii
Nematoda
Crustacea
Polychaeta
Bivalvia
Actinopterygii
Cumacea
Decapoda
Floridichthys carpio
Lophogobius cyprinoides
Calanus
Pteropods
Copepoda
Cryptomonas ovata
Cryptomonas erosa
nanoflagellates
Chroococcus
Merismopedia
Gomphosphaeria
Rhabdoderma
Aphanothece
Crucigenia
Euastrum
Oocystis
Schroederia
Tetraedron
Ankistrodesmus
Elakatothrix
Scenedesmus
Chroomonas
Cryptomonas
POM

Based on studies in:
USA: Rhode Island (Marine)
USA: Hawaii (Swamp)
Antarctic (Estuarine)
USA: Florida, South Florida (Swamp)
Wales, River Rheidol (River)
Portugal (Estuarine)
Pacific (Tropical)
USA: Florida, Everglades (Estuarine)
USA, Northeastern US contintental shelf (Coastal)
Puerto Rico, El Verde (Rainforest)
Canada, high Arctic (Ice cap)
unknown (epipelagic zone, Tropical)
Quebec (Lake or pond, Pelagic)
Austria, Hafner Lake (Lake or pond)
Scotland (Estuarine)
USA: New York, Bridge Brook (Lake or pond)
USA: Wisconsin, Little Rock Lake (Lake or pond)

This list may not be complete but is based on published studies.
  • S. W. Nixon and C. A. Oviatt, Ecology of a New England salt marsh, Ecol. Monogr. 43:463-498, from p. 491 (1973).
  • G. E. Walsh, An ecological study of a Hawaiian mangrove swamp. In: Estuaries, G. H. Lauff, Ed. (AAAS Publication 83, Washington, DC, 1967), pp. 420-431, from p. 426.
  • G. A. Knox, Antarctic marine ecosystems. In: Antarctic Ecology, M. W. Holdgate, Ed. (Academic Press, New York, 1970) 1:69-96, from p. 87.
  • G. E. Walsh, An ecological study of a Hawaiian mangrove swamp. In: Estuaries, G. H. Lauff, Ed. (AAAS Publication 83, Washington, DC, 1967), pp. 420-431, from p. 429.
  • L. D. Harris and G. B. Bowman, Vertebrate predator subsystem. In: Grasslands, Systems Analysis and Man, A. I. Breymeyer and G. M. Van Dyne, Eds. (International Biological Programme Series, no. 19, Cambridge Univ. Press, Cambridge, England, 1980), pp. 591-
  • J. R. E. Jones, A further ecological study of the river Rheidol: the food of the common insects of the main-stream, J. Anim. Ecol. 19:159-174, from p. 172 (1950).
  • L. Saldanha, Estudio Ambiental do Estuario do Tejo, Publ. no. 5(4) (CNA/Tejo, Lisbon, 1980).
  • T. S. Petipa, Trophic relationships in communities and the functioning of marine ecosystems: I. Studies in trophic relationships in pelagic communities of the southern seas of the USSR and in the tropical Pacific. In: Marine Production Mechanisms, M. J. D
  • S. W. Nixon and C. A. Oviatt, Ecology of a New England salt marsh, Ecol. Monog. 43:463-498, from p. 491 (1973).
  • W. E. Odum and E. J. Heald, The detritus-based food web of an estuarine mangrove community, In Estuarine Research, Vol. 1, Chemistry, Biology and the Estuarine System, Academic Press, New York, pp. 265-286, from p. 281 (1975).
  • N. V. Parin, Ichthyofauna of the Epipelagic Zone (Israel Program for Scientific Translations, Jerusalem, 1970; U.S. Department of Commerce Clearinghouse for Federal Scientific and Technical Information, Springfield, VA 22151), from p. 154.
  • M. R. Landry, A review of important concepts in the trophic organization of pelagic ecosystems, Helgolander wiss. Meeresunters. 30:8-17, from p. 12 (1977).
  • A. Baril, Effect of the water mite Piona constricta on planktonic community structure, M.Sc. Thesis, University of Ottawa, Canada (1983).
  • F. Schiemer, M. Bobek, P. Gludovatz, A. Ioschenkohl, I. Zweimuller and M. Martinetz, Trophische Interaktionen im Pelagial des Hafnersees, Sitzungsber. Akad. Wiss. Wien Math. Naturwiss. Kl. Abt. 1:191-209 (1982).
  • M. S. W. Bradstreet and W. E. Cross, Trophic relationships at High Arctic ice edges, Arctic 3(1)5:1-12, from p. 9 (1982).
  • Link J (2002) Does food web theory work for marine ecosystems? Mar Ecol Prog Ser 230:1–9
  • Waide RB, Reagan WB (eds) (1996) The food web of a tropical rainforest. University of Chicago Press, Chicago
  • Havens K (1992) Scale and structure in natural food webs. Science 257:1107–1109
  • Martinez ND (1991) Artifacts or attributes? Effects of resolution on the Little Rock Lake food web. Ecol Monogr 61:367–392
  • Hall SJ, Raffaelli D (1991) Food-web patterns: lessons from a species-rich web. J Anim Ecol 60:823–842
  • Huxham M, Beany S, Raffaelli D (1996) Do parasites reduce the chances of triangulation in a real food web? Oikos 76:284–300
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