Copepods are small crustacean species that are naturally found in aquatic environments. They can be found roaming both the bottom and upper waters of oceans and freshwater bodies. Copepods can also be found in ponds, bogs, swamps, including other wet environments.
Copepods make up an essential zooplankton species. Earlier studies have discovered about 50 different species in coastal waters just off Tasmania’s east coast alone.
The teardrop shape identifies the body of the copepod, and it has a thin, near-transparent exoskeleton. Copepods are characterized by their short cylindrical bodies that are clearly divided into a number of segments.
The head section is noticeably round and has prominent, and usually long antennae. This antenna helps to slow the sinking rate when held away from the body. Most copepods can grow between 1 and 5 mm long, although a few of them can reach 10 mm.
Male copepods are usually differentiated by being slightly smaller than the opposite sex. Males also possess modified antennules which they use in grasping females when mating. Females can easily be distinguished by the obvious swollen genital.
Copepods don’t have a circulatory system and gills. They instead absorb oxygen through their skin. Wastes are eliminated naturally through specialized maxillary glands.
Depending on the precise species, the copepods’ body shape and size vary. Most copepods have a centrally-located (center of the head) compound eye; however, some species don’t have eyes.
The copepod has a lifecycle that’s similar to other crustaceans. Their lifecycle typically begins with an egg hatching into larvae that contain a head and a tail.
However, this larvae is not fully formed since it doesn’t possess a defined abdominal region known as “nauplius.” Copepods reach adulthood after many rounds of molting.
Adult reproduction is controlled by the relative abundance of nutrients and seasonal cues. Furthermore, the presence of environmental contaminations and the quality of water have been discovered to alter the development and reproduction of copepods.
Maxillipeds, which are specialized thoracic appendages, are used for feeding.
What do they eat?
Copepods nest near the surface of large water bodies typically feed on phytoplankton, bacteria, while a few larger copepods prefer to feed on other smaller copepod species.
Species of copepods that inhabit the ocean floor or other similar habitats own functional mouth parts that can efficiently scrape off organic waste products and bacteria for consumption.
Other copepods are parasitic in nature and prefer to extract nutrients from a host. Some copepods also feed on insect larvae and are currently being tested for their capability to put mosquito populations in check, especially in regions affected by mosquito-transmitted infections (e.g., malaria and dengue).
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