1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Algae/Plankton

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The great majority of the aquatic algae, both freshwater and marine, are attached plants. Some, however, are wanderers, Plankton. either swimming actively with the aid of cilia, or floating inertly as the result of a specific weight closely approaching that of the medium. To the aggregate of such forms, both animal and vegetable, the term plankton has been applied, and the investigation of the vegetable plankton, both freshwater and marine, has been pursued in recent times with energy and success. The German Plankton Expedition of 1889 added greatly to our knowledge of the floating vegetable life of the North Atlantic Ocean, while many laboratories established on the shores of inland seas and lakes have rendered a similar service in the case of our freshwater phyto-plankton. The quantitative estimate of the amount of this flora has revealed its enormous aggregate amount and therefore its great imporance in the economy of oceanic and lacustrine animal life. The organisms constituting this plankton are mostly unicellular, often aggregated together in colonies, and the remarkable structure which they exhibit has added a new chapter to the story of adaptation to environment. The families Diatomaceae, Peridiniaceae and Protococcaceae are best represented in the pelagic plankton, while in addition the Volvocaceae are an important element in freshwater plankton.