Dr. Richard Kirby, a Royal Society Research Fellow at Plymouth University was going through his images of plankton with a festive eye in mind and discovered there were quite a few that fit with the season. In fact he ultimately came up with the "10 Plankton of Christmas."
10. A Candle: The larva of the starfish Luidia ciliarisAn unusual plankton here, the starfish larva body is the transparent part, while the orange is the juvenile starfish or Luidia sarsi. It detaches from the body and sinks to the floor while the leftover body keeps swimming with plankton until it dies.
Dr. Kirby continues: "Their (Planktons) importance on a global scale is obvious when you realize that 50 per cent of the world's photosynthesis takes place in the surface of the sea, drawing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere into the oceans and releasing oxygen."
9. A Christmas Tree: The paddle worm Tomopteris helgolandica
8. Fireworks: Protozoan Acantharea
Underpinning the whole marine food chain, phytoplankton, which are plantlike and no bigger than the width of a human hair, are fed on by zooplankton.
7. Five Gold Rings: Spiral chains of the diatom Eucampia zodiacus
6. A Christmas Lantern: The doliolid Doliolum nationalisBelieve it or not, these Doliolids are actually distant relatives of ours. They swim by pumping water when they contract their body wall. Anyone swimming in the sea will have swallowed them without realizing it.
5. Santa's Hat: The larva of a sea anemone
Dr. Kirby says: "With sea temperatures rising as a result of a warming climate, the numbers and distribution of the plankton are changing with ramifications for the whole marine food chain, and the ecology of our planet."
4. Snowflakes: Baby brittle starsAbove you can see baby brittle stars ready to start their journey as adults after sinking to the sea floor. Brittle stars are near relatives of star fish and as adults have very long slim arms.
Dr. Kirby continues his explanation of the importance of plankton: "Your car is also fueled by their remains and over millions of years they created some of the most enigmatic features of our coastline. So when you drive your car to the festive family gathering it is all thanks to the processed plankton that fuel it. When you turn on the oven to cook the Christmas turkey, the gas comes from plankton that sank to the seafloor over hundreds of millions of years of earth's history."
3. Angels: Sea angels, Clione limacina
2. A Star: A baby Luidia ciliaris starfish
1. Bells: The jellyfish Aglantha digitale