FACTS: Copepods are tiny aquatic crustaceans. There are about 15,000 species of copepods, and they may be the most abundant multicellular animals on the planet – even more numerous than insects!
Their name means “paddle foot” and they are generally smaller than a grain of rice. A type of zooplankton (or “animal drifter”), copepods eat phytoplankton, protozoa, and other tiny animals – and nearly every aquatic animal eats them. (If you’ve ever been swimming in an ocean, river, or lake, you’ve almost certainly swallowed one too…)
Nevertheless, copepods are excellent escape artists: by storing energy in their swimming legs and releasing it like a spring, they can “jump” in the water like a kangaroo or flea jumps on land.
Copepods live virtually everywhere there is water: in freshwater, saltwater, aquariums – and they can even be found in public water supply pipes.
Although copepods themselves are quite harmless to humans, cholera bacteria can attach to the surface of certain species. Where drinking water is untreated (such as in poor, tropical areas of the world), copepods can inadvertently become a health issue.
Fortunately, scientists have discovered that by simply filtering drinking water through a folded piece of cloth, copepods are captured and the risk of contracting cholera is greatly reduced. Now that’s something worth jumping up and down about!
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