Faster Than Its Shadow

A few years ago orthodox Jews in New York were horrified to find out that crustaceans were in the public water supply. Ingesting crustaceans is against Jewish law. Some non-Jews are probably a little bothered by it too. This new revelation gave birth to a new industry in copepod water filtering systems.

Copepods, small crustaceans, literally populate all the earth’s water systems. Some can be seen with the eye while others are microscopic. They are the major ingredient in zooplankton which is in all the world oceans and is the ecological base for sea dwelling animals.

Because of their minute size swimming in the ocean is like a human swimming in thick syrup. It would be difficult and exhausting for us, but even more difficult if we had to capture our food in the syrup. As we reached for lunch our movement through the syrup would push our food away from us. So how do blind ocean dwelling copepods get their food if moving toward it moves it away? Fast… really, really fast.

When a copepod senses food moving through the syrupy water within a few milliseconds it can accelerate to over 100 times its body length per second. For me that would be 620 feet per second in syrup. It can move so fast that the fluid viscosity around it changes, so their prey isn't pushed away and is easily captured.

Scientists are still studying copepods to gain more knowledge about how this happens. But we know that the system necessary to move this quickly in fluid takes streamlined bodies, raw muscle power, and an amazing nervous system to sense the prey and move directly to the target. Seems like this animal was designed to do this... if fact how could a blind copepod capture food and survive without a system like this? It couldn't...

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