The Phytoplankton Predator

Maurice Mikkers
Published in
3 min readJan 25, 2015


Ever wondered who is eating “all” the Phytoplankton? Well meet Polyphemus Pediculus (Water Flea). Captured underneath a dark field microscope, this little (0.2 to 3.0 millimetres) organism is giving birth to new offspring.

Commonly they are called water fleas because their saltatory swimming style resembles the movements of fleas. They can live in diverse conditions, from small ponds to lakes and estuaries such as the Gulf of Saint Lawrence and the Gulf of Finland. And can even be found quite far offshore.

I found this one in the canals of The Hague in The Netherlands, when I was looking for some fresh water life to test out my new microscope. After a few tries this organism was the first thing I encountered. Cause I’m not new to the world of microscopy, I already knew in what area I had to look to find out wat kind of water flea it exactly was.

Photography did not seem to capture the beauty of this living organism, you really needed to see it moving. So I decided to make a new step make my first microscopic video with my Canon 5D MKIII connected to the microscope. (that would normally be used to create “panoramic” high detailed images)

My first result of filming underneath a microscope.

Yet another new world opened for me now that I could do this at home. I was already used to seeing beautiful things underneath a microscope when working at the Parasitology department of the RIVM. But this felt even more amazing now I could capture and share it freely.

There for a few days later I received an e-mail from a Dr. of the PDN Department of Cambridge UK.

I am contacting you because I have seen your recent video of the predatory flea Pedunculus giving birth and I was wondering if you could please let me know what media you used to keep the flea from moving around.

My answer was simple; after you have captured the water flea, put it on a slide and make sure it can not move around by limiting the amount of water that he has around him by pipetting or sucking it away with a tichu.

Simply said its like if an adult wants to swim in the baby pool, you cant your too big and there is not enough water to move yourself around.

It’s lovely to see how such simple organisms in life can look so beautiful, and yet we almost never see, unless we take time and the right equipment. I love to experiment with these things and I hope you will enjoy some future images and photographs.

Next time you go to your local lake, remember that this little organism like many others might be filtering the water. Participating in the local eco system.

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Maurice Mikkers

Independent Photography Professional from The Hague (The Netherlands) #Micrographs #Science #Tech #Art #Creative #Concepts