In this learning activity, students will be introduced to the diversity of microzooplankton. Specifically, they will explore the variety of feeding strategies microzooplankton exhibit and reinforce the idea that they are consumers in a marine food web. To learn the difference between pallium feeding, peduncle feeding, and phagocytosis, the students will enact these feeding types and “consume” specific prey items. Some students will also be assigned the role of secondary consumer to elongate the food web. Students will also calculate the energy value in each trophic level and combine results to construct an energy pyramid.

  • Microzooplankton are primary consumers.
  • Microzooplankton exhibit a variety of feeding strategies.
  • Microzooplankton are in turn prey items for secondary consumers.
  • The concept of an energy pyramid.
  • How to construct an energy pyramid.
  • There is only one way to consume food to gain energy.
  • Unicellular organisms cannot eat.
  • Primary consumers in the ocean are not important, especially to humans.
  • Students will initially be given a brief lecture on what microzooplankton are and their role in the ocean. This presentation is called Microzooplankton and Feeding Strategies Presentation. To emphasize their role in the marine food web as primary consumers, students will explore the variety of feeding strategies that microzooplankton exhibit. They will enact a game in which each student is assigned a specific feeding strategy: phagocytosis, pallium feeding, or peduncle feeding. To mimic these feeding techniques, they will be given corresponding utensils that they will use to pick up food items associated with their feeding type. While these students are “consuming” their prey items, they will also have to avoid the select students who were chosen to be predators (secondary consumers). At the end of the game, students will count how many food items they were able to pick up and calculate their caloric intake. These values will be put together to form an energy pyramid. Time permitting, the students can switch feeding strategies and repeat the game.
  • The exact quantities will depend on the size of the class. The values given below are for a class size of approximately 40 students.
  • 4 bags of skittles.
  • ½ to 1 bag of small marshmallows (approximately 400 marshmallows).
  • ½ bag of walnuts in their shell (approximately 100 walnuts).
  • 1 pound of play-doh.
  • 12 straws.
  • 12 document covers.
  • 40 copies of the Microzooplankton and Feeding Strategies Worksheet.
  • This learning activity is the second in the unit Community Structure and Dynamics of Marine Plankton.
  • The other two lessons are Phytoplankton Cell Model Building and Plankton Population Dynamics.
  • This activity was created for a 10th grade biology class.
  • It can be used for class sizes ranging from 15 to 40 students.
  • The activity can be adapted to class periods between 50 minutes and 90 minutes.
  • Previous knowledge relating to this activity is the concepts of trophic levels and primary producers.
  • Students will be asked to calculate the caloric intake from the feeding game.
  • The values from the class will be combined to calculate an energy pyramid.
  • They can input these answers in the worksheet Microzooplankton and Feeding Strategies Worksheet.
  • See Expanded Teaching Notes document for further information on how to run this activity.



Related Community
Structure and Dynamics of
Marine Plankton Activities
Lesson Specifics
  • Grade Level: 10, biology classroom.
  • Time Frame: Between 50 minutes and 90 minutes.
  • California State Biology Science Standards: Primary standard 8a is covered. Secondary standards 6f, 6g, and 7a are covered.

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