What makes pelagic copepods so successful?

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


Three features that are unique or almost unique to pelagic copepods among zooplankton may account for their numerical dominance in the pelagic realm of the oceans: (i) the torpedo-shaped body, the sensory armed antennules and the ‘gearing’ of the muscle motor make pelagic copepods very efficient in detecting and escaping predators. The specific force production and velocities during escape jumps are both about an order of magnitude higher than for other similarly sized organisms. (ii) The capability to remotely detect prey and to either capture these as they arrive in a scanning current, or as they swim through the perceptive sphere of the copepod, releases the copepods from the penalties associated filtering sticky water for prey particles. Scanning currents and active attack jumps are found in only few other zooplankters. (iii) Efficient mate finding in a mate-dilute environment allows for sexual reproduction with actual mating in each generation, otherwise uncommon in the plankton, and yields advantages in terms of deleting bad mutations and promoting ‘good genes’ through sexual selection.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Plankton Research
Pages (from-to)677-685
Publication statusPublished - 2011


  • Feeding
  • Hydrodynamics
  • Predator avoidance
  • Reproduction


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