Salps are free-float in most ocean waters, but abundant in the Southern Ocean. They eat and move about propelled by air and water, but hey can even link up in a train to live a communal lifestyle. They look like jellyfish, however structurally the Salps actually are thought to be the ancient ancestor of all vertebrate or backboned animals. The tiny groups of nerves in Salps are one of the first instances of a primitive nervous system, similar to the primitive streak in our early vertebrate embryology.
Only half-inch to 5-inch-long Salps are the most efficient filter feeders in the ocean. “…They consume particles spanning four orders of magnitude in size. This is like eating everything from a mouse to a horse.” said Laurence P. Madin, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) Director of Research and one of the investigator. Salps capture food particles, mostly phytoplankton, with an internal mucous filter net. Until now, it was thought that only particles as large as or larger than the 1.5-micron-wide holes in the mesh.
The salps’ role in carbon cycling is very important. As they eat small, as well as large, particles and microbes of all sizes, they condense their waste products into carbon-containing pellets, the larger and denser sink to the ocean bottom. This effectively removes carbon from the surface waters and sequesters it on the ocean floor where it cannot escape again into the atmosphere for many years or longer.
Small, but mighty important the Salps help save our planet.
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