Micro-Pond Micro-Critters!

A year has passed since the creation of the Micro-Pond, and a lot of life has moved in. Much of this life is very small, so I decided to do a quick survey, and see if I could identify and photograph some of the creatures calling Micro-Pond their home.

One of the first things I noticed when I took a closer look inside the pond was that there were lots of very small organisms swimming around in the water. The only way to identify them was to take some of them out of the water, and look at them closer through a magnifying glass. 

The first creature I looked at was very small. In the pond I could see them in quite large groups under the surface. Each one was around 1 or 2mm in length, so to identify them I would have to take some out. I took a small amount of water out in a small jar, and from that took one of the creatures out and put it in some water on a miscroscope slide. And here is what I saw:


The critter in question

The critter in question was actually a Daphnia. Daphnia is a genus of very small planktonic crustaceans. There are various species in this genus, but identifying them is very difficult, so I'm just going to refer to it as a Daphnia! These crustaceans are sometimes called water fleas, because the way they swim resembles the movement of fleas. Daphnia can live in many different places from lakes and ponds to rivers and streams, and even acidic swamps. They also have a very interesting life cycle. Most species of Daphnia can both sexually and asexually reproduce. Females produce eggs that hatch into daphnids after around a day. Asexually produced offspring are called 'diploids' and are normally female. But some of these can be male. These males will then fertilise other females eggs and create sexually produced 'haploids'. If a population is without any male Daphnia, only asexual reproduction will occur.

It was great to see that there was such a large number of Daphnia in the Micro-Pond. It shows how even the smallest pond can be a home for life.

The next creature was much easier to see, identify and photograph. Pond Snails: there are quite a lot of pond snails in the Micro-Pond, mostly hiding amongst the algae and plant life. The snails in the pond range in size, but most are at least a couple of centimetres long, so they were easy to spot. As with the Daphnia, I couldn't pinpoint a specific species.


Pond Snail

The last critter I will mention in this post was very difficult to get out and have a look at. It took quite a while to get it into some water on the microscope slide, but eventually we managed, and got to have a closer look. We could immediately tell it was a larva of some sort, but couldn't quite put a name on it. Midge and Black Fly larvae were both possibilities but it was in fact a Mosquito Larva. 


Mosquito Larva

Many people don't know that mosquitos start life underwater, before pupating and becoming their adult selves. Mosquito larvae have large, developed heads for feeding and a segmented abdomen. They usually feed on algae and microbes that are on or just below the surface of the water, using their mouth brushes to feed efficiently. They dive underwater when disturbed, through propulsion with their mouths or by wriggling their body violently from side to side. When they're ready, they metamorphosise into pupae. The pupae then rises to the surface, and when the mosquito is ready, the adult emerges.

There are also many flying insects around the pond as well. Hoverflies use the plants as perches, and Common Pondskaters skate over the surface of the water. It really is beginning to fill with life, and it's great to see.



Hoverfly
Common Pondskater

If you have some spare space in your garden, I thoroughly recommend building a pond. No matter how small, it gives wildlife a home in your garden, and it's very exciting watching it fill with life. See my last post for a simple step-by-step guide to building a garden pond.

Thank you for reading.

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