Picture of red tide taken from the NOAA Research Vessel Ron Brown
Click on image for full size
Courtesy of NOAA

Robots Watch out for Poisonous Plankton!
News story originally written on January 30, 2003

Sometimes things that are very small can be very scary! Plankton that live in the sea are very small but some of them can be dangerous to people, fish and other animals. So, scientists have made robots to search the seas for the dangerous plankton!

Plankton float in the ocean and travel where the currents take them. There are many different types of plankton and only a few types are harmful. The harmful ones are special types of algae. Algae are small creatures with only one cell. They make their own food like plants do.

Most types of algae are very good. Animals like clams, fish and whales eat algae as food. But a few types of algae have poison in them and are not good for animals to eat. Sometimes the poisonous ones grow very fast and make a reddish cloud in the ocean water called a red tide. It is very important for people to not eat seafood that has the red tide poison in it.

Scientists have made special robots that travel around the oceans and look for poisonous algae. The scientists hope that the robots will help tell people who live near the ocean if there is a red tide coming.

Last modified January 31, 2003 by Lisa Gardiner.

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