Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Most of the living things that make up aeroplankton are very small to microscopic in size. It is difficult to identify the little organisms that make up aerial plankton because they're so tiny. Scientists can collect them for study in traps and sweep nets from airplanes.
Examples of aeroplankton include tiny microbes (such as viruses, protists, bacteria and fungi), as well as spores, pollen, and wind-scattered seeds. Even some animals such as small insects and spiders may be carried upwards into the atmosphere by air currents and be caught floating for some time.
The census of aeroplankton species includes viruses, about 1000 different species of bacteria, 40,000 varieties of fungi and hundreds of species of protozoa, algae, mosses and liverworts that live some part of their life cycle as aeroplankton.
Arthropods, such as insects and spiders, actually make up quite a large component of the mass of aerial plankton. Sometimes, many species of spiders will deliberately use the wind to propel themselves around an area. The spider will find a vantage point (such as a branch, fence or surface) and, pointing its abdomen upward, eject fine threads of silk from the spinnerets. At some point, the friction of the air upon the silk thread(s) is great enough to get the spider lifted into the air and carried off by the breeze. This is called ballooning. Ballooning spiders are capable of drifting many miles away from where they started.
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