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Welcome to the Bug Hotel

Crustaceans come in all sizes. At the top end of the scale are crabs with foot-long legs and tasty lobsters. Down near the bottom are copepods, critters the size of my pencil point. Copepods live in fresh water and in the ocean. They get in your hair when you go swimming at the beach. “They’re an important link in the food chain,” says biological oceanographer Carin Ashjian from Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution—she’s the chief scientist of the cruise, and head of the zooplankton team. Copepods are food for chaetognaths (arrow-worms), larval fish, bigger fish, seabirds like auklets, and whales. So they’ve got a big job to do, ecosystem-wise.

We’ve already encountered copepods in Alexei Pinchuk’s nets and the zooplankton team’s experiments. That group does a few different kinds of experiments. One is the grazing experiments we saw before, in which they put a few copepods or small krill into a bottle overnight to see what they eat. Another is egg-laying experiments, in which they put female copepods into a “bug hotel”—no kidding, they call it that—to see how many eggs they lay.

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