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Life in Transition: Balancing Inertial and Viscous Forces by Planktonic Copepods

Jeannette Yen
Biological Bulletin
Vol. 198, No. 2 (Apr., 2000), pp. 213-224
DOI: 10.2307/1542525
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1542525
Page Count: 12
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Life in Transition: Balancing Inertial and Viscous Forces by Planktonic Copepods
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Abstract

Copepods (1-10 mm aquatic crustaceans moving at 1-1000 mm s-1) live at Reynolds numbers that vary over 5 orders of magnitude, from 10-2 to 103. Hence, they live at the interface between laminar and turbulent regimes and are subject to the physical constraints imposed by both viscous and inertial realms. At large scales, the inertially driven system enforces the dominance of physically derived fluid motion; plankton, advected by currents, adjust their life histories to the changing oceanic environment. At Kolmogorov scales, a careful interplay of evenly matched forces of biology and physics occurs. Copepods conform or deform the local physical environment for their survival, using morphological and behavioral adaptations to shift the balance in their favor. Examples of these balances and transitions are observed when copepods engage in their various survival tasks of feeding, predator avoidance, mating, and signaling. Quantitative analyses of their behavior give measures of such physical properties of their fluid medium as energy dissipation rates, molecular diffusion rates, eddy size, and eddy packaging. Understanding the micromechanics of small-scale biological-physical-chemical interactions gives insight into factors influencing large-scale dynamics of copepod distribution, patchiness, and encounter probabilities in the sea.

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