Definition of plankton in English:



mass noun
  • The small and microscopic organisms drifting or floating in the sea or fresh water, consisting chiefly of diatoms, protozoans, small crustaceans, and the eggs and larval stages of larger animals. Many animals are adapted to feed on plankton, especially by filtering the water.

    ‘prawns change their diet from plant plankton to animal plankton’
    Compare with nekton
    as modifier ‘plankton feeders’
    • ‘In the newly exposed waters and throughout the North Atlantic Ocean, plankton growth is prodigious.’
    • ‘Manta rays live in tropical waters and feed on plankton, using their frontal flaps.’
    • ‘The young remain in the water column feeding on plankton until they are around 50 mm in length.’
    • ‘They may also forage for insects, plankton, mollusks, crustaceans, and small fish.’
    • ‘Smaller warm water plankton has replaced them and they are less nutritious, according to the scientists.’
    • ‘The eggs and young, which hatch in around two weeks, drift in the Oceans currents feeding upon plankton for the first few months of their life.’
    • ‘The production of plankton is directly related to the fertility of the water.’
    • ‘Every March and April, whale sharks come to Ningaloo Reef on Australia's outback coast to feed on plankton.’
    • ‘Microscopic plankton trapped in the finely tipped gills are pulled slowly into waiting mouths.’
    • ‘The expedition also found rings of plankton organisms that measured 10 km wide.’
    • ‘However, the seaweeds or the algae and in particularly the microscopic plankton can fix a lot more carbon than a forest can.’
    • ‘The significance of this is that other species such as shellfish and crustaceans feeding in plankton could be affected.’
    • ‘The fish then turn to feeding on larger plankton, including small fish, before migrating down into the depths at around two years of age.’
    • ‘The dung feeds microscopic plankton, which are consumed by worms and larvae.’
    • ‘The plankton that permeates these waters attracts vast swarms of anchovies, which in turn draw millions of seabirds.’
    • ‘Whales eat big fish, which eat medium fish, which eat small fish, which eat smaller fish, which eat plankton.’
    • ‘They have no teeth, and feed by ‘hoovering up’ tiny plankton from the sea.’
    • ‘Scientists say that the change in species of plankton, from cold water types to warm water, are less favourable to cod in its juvenile stage.’
    • ‘All plankton, kelp forests and seagrass beds are found in the euphotic zone.’
    • ‘These regions of high productivity promote the development of plankton, which feeds planktivorous fish such as anchovies.’
    • ‘Each oyster feeds naturally on plankton brought in on the tide until the time comes for them to be lifted, washed and packed.’


Late 19th century: from German, from Greek planktos ‘wandering’, from the base of plazein ‘wander’.