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Distribution and Abundance of Zooplankton Along Tamil Nadu Coastal Waters, India | OMICS International
ISSN: 2157-7625
Journal of Ecosystem & Ecography

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Distribution and Abundance of Zooplankton Along Tamil Nadu Coastal Waters, India

Varadharajan D* and Soundarapandian P

Faculty of Marine Sciences, Centre of Advanced Study in Marine Biology, Annamalai University, Tamil Nadu, India

*Corresponding Author:
Varadharajan D
Faculty of Marine Sciences
Centre of Advanced Study in Marine Biology
Annamalai University, Tamil Nadu, India
E-mail: [email protected]

Received date: July 15, 2013; Accepted date: September 05, 2013; Published date: September 07, 2013

Citation: Varadharajan D, Soundarapandian P (2013) Distribution and Abundance of Zooplankton Along Tamil Nadu Coastal Waters, India. J Ecosys Ecograph 3:135. doi:10.4172/2157-7625.1000135

Copyright: © 2013 Varadharajan D, et al. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and and source are credited.

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Zooplanktons have a limited ability to control their fine-scale distribution in the water column, but they are also at the mercy of oceanic currents and water movements. The distribution and abundance of zooplanktons are strongly influenced by many factors. The present study consists of 26 species at three different stations. In this study, maximum of these species are found in station-3, i.e., Pichavaram, than the other 2 stations. The species recorded in the present study belongs to families: Foraminifera (9), Calanoida (6), Cyclopoida (4), Appendicularia (4) Hydroida(1), Rotatoria(1) and Sagittoida(1). The zooplankton production gradually decreases with increasing depth, where the offshore stations yield less abundance than the coastal waters stations.


Zooplankton; Diversity; Abundance; Physico-chemical; Research special


Zooplanktons are tiny animals found in all aquatic ecosystems, particularly the pelagic and littoral zones in the ocean. They are one of the primary consumers of the ocean and grazes on the phytoplankton. They themselves are an important food source for large animals [1] and are important in the remineralization and transport of nutrients [2] which is very important in the conservation of modern oceanic food webs [3,4]. Marine ecosystem of the estuaries and lagoon are among the most productive and zooplankton rich in the world [5]. High zooplankton biomass and productivity are related to the input of energy and matter from mangrove forests, which are the most common coastal vegetations in the tropics [6]. The species diversity and abundance of the community structure of the zooplankton is necessary to assess the potential fishery resource of a place [7]. Zooplankton provides an important food source for larval vertebrates and invertebrates in natural waters and in aquaculture ponds. It has been reported that in many countries the failure of fishing is attributed to the reduced zooplankton [4,5]. Zooplankton species distribution shows wide spatio temporal variations due to the different hydrographical factors on individual species. They also serve as good indicators of water quality as per the previous studies on zooplankton of Indian coastal environment [3,4,8-10]. The present study identifies the diversity and abundance of zooplankton in relation to physico-chemical parameters.

Materials and Methods

The distributions of zooplankton were investigated in three stations. The three stations were (Station-1) Poombukar, (Station-2) Pazhayar and (Station-3) Pichavaram at Tamil nadu, south east coast of India. The study was conducted from January 2011 to June 2011. Zooplankton samples were collected at monthly intervals from the surface waters of the study area. In all the three stations, samples were collected by horizontal towing of plankton net (0.35m mouth diameter) made of bolting silk (No.10, mesh size 158μm) for half an hour. These samples were preserved in 5% formalin [11] and used for qualitative analysis. Zooplankton standing stock was resolute by a counting method. The major taxonomic groups of zooplankton were determined under the light microscope with a magnification of 10x10. Samples were analyzed for determination of zooplankton diversity and abundance [12] and standard works of [13,14]. The species evenness, richness, diversity and index were calculated by using computer statistical software package,‘ECOSTAT’. Physico-Chemical parameters such as temperature, salinity, pH, dissolved oxygen, biological oxygen demand and nutrients were analyzed by standard methods [15].


The zooplankton recorded in the present study consisted of 26 species at three stations during the January 2011 to June 2011. The maximum species are recorded in station-3, compared to other stations (Table 1). The zooplanktons recorded in the present study belongs to families: Foraminifera (9), Calanoida (6), Cyclopoida (4), Appendicularia (4) Hydroida(1), Rotatoria(1) and Sagittoida(1) (Table 1).

S.No Foraminifera Station-1 Station-2 Station-3
1 Globigerina rubescence - + +
2 G.bulloides + - +
3 G.opima + + +
4 Tintinnopsis bermudensis + + +
5 T.butschlii + + -
6 T .cylindrica + + +
7 T.rubulosa + + +
8 T.mortensenii + + +
9 Eutintinnus tenuis + + +
1 Obelia sp + + +
3 Brachionus plicatilis + - +
1 Rhincalanus sp + + +
3 Metacalanus sp + + +
4 Eucalanus sp + + +
5 Acartia  danae + + +
6 Acartia  sp - - +
1 Oithona rigida + + +
2 Euterpina acutifrons + - +
3 Microsetella sp + + +
4 Macrosetella sp + + +
1 Sagitta sp + + +
1 Copepod nauplii + + +
2 Shrimp zoea + + +
3 Crab zoea + + +
4 Fish larvae + + +
  Total 23 21 24

Table 1: Checklist of zooplankton species recorded from three stations.

The data analysis in Margalef ’s species richness (d’), Shannon- Weiner diversity function (H’), Pielou’s evenness (J’) and Simpson’s dominance (1-λ’) was used to reflect the underlying changes in physical and chemical properties of zooplankton species. The species richness and diversity of zooplankton at three sampling stations were determined using Pielous evenness which was highest at the station-3 (0.9278) and lowest at the station-1 (0.8741). Both Margalef ’s diversity and richness were highest at the stations 3 (5.5669 and 6.8421) and lowest at the station-1 (5.1710 and 6.4731). Both Shannon and Simpson indices were highest at the stations 3 (5.6875 and 0.9434) and lowest at the station1 (5.2481 and 0.9214) (Table 2).

  Station1 Station2 Station3
Pielou's evenness J 0.8741 0.919 0.9278
Shannon -wienner's diversity(H) 5.2481 5.5353 5.6875
Margalef's(D)iversity index 5.171 5.2755 5.5669
Margalef's(D) Species Richness(SR) 6.4731 6.6124 6.8421
Simpson's Index(D) 0.9214 0.932 0.9434

Table 2: Zooplankton evenness, diversity, richness and index.

Atmospheric temperature (°C)

The high atmospheric temperature was recorded 32°C in month of June at station-3 and the low atmospheric temperature was recorded 27.5°C in March month at station-1 (Table 3-5).

Parameters AT (°C) WT (°C) Salinity pH DO BOD (mg/l) COD (mg/l) µM
Month (‰) (mg/l) NH4 TN TP SiO3
January 29.5 30.5 32.5 8 2.95 0.152 0.231 2.125 14.21 1.074 2.147
February 28 29.5 32 8.1 2.89 0.516 0.272 1.173 12.45 2.147 2.236
March 27.5 26 32.5 8.1 2.01 1.214 0.23 0.914 12.72 1.215 2.114
April 31 32 34 8 0.512 2.325 0.276 1.056 13.56 0.751 2.125
May 30 31 34.5 8.1 0.434 2.234 0.183 1.018 19.23 0.369 2.136
June 30.5 29.5 33.5 7.9 0.279 3.061 0.592 1.536 15.08 2.174 1.023

Table 3: Water quality parameters in Poombukar during from January 2011 to June 2011.

Parameters AT (°C) WT (°C) Salinity pH DO BOD (mg/l) COD (mg/l) µM
Month (‰) (mg/l) NH4 TN TP SiO3
January 30 30.5 31.5 8.1 1.73 0.128 0.217 2.032 13.61 2.032 2.174
February 28.5 29 31 8 2.51 0.651 0.252 1.093 14.82 2.041 2.062
March 29 28.5 29.5 8.1 2.9 3.129 0.306 0.145 15.73 1.632 2.142
April 31 31 34.5 8 0.715 2.315 0.228 1.631 16.51 0.418 2.113
May 30 32 34 8.1 0.326 2.062 0.209 2.084 19.26 0.361 2.105
June 30.5 31.5 32.5 8 0.281 3.175 0.412 1.561 12.39 2.032 1.871

Table 4: Water quality parameters in Pazhayar during from January 2011 to June 2011.

Parameters AT (°C) WT (°C) Salinity pH DO BOD (mg/l) COD (mg/l) µM
Month (‰) (mg/l) NH4 TN TP SiO3
January 31 31.5 32.5 8.1 4.87 0.198 0.259 2.213 13.18 2.047 2.418
February 29.5 30.5 31.5 8.1 3.09 0.673 0.267 1.147 18.93 2.356 2.514
March 30 31 32 8 3.81 1.547 0.951 1.892 12.91 1.732 3.245
April 30.5 31.5 34.5 8.1 0.963 2.632 0.263 1.245 21.54 0.514 2.148
May 32 32.5 35 8.2 0.487 2.487 0.384 2.092 20.82 0.621 2.169
June 31.5 31 33.5 7.8 0.362 3.015 0.568 1.634 18.36 2.179 1.923

Table 5: Water quality parameters in Pichavaram during from January 2011 to June 2011.

Water temperature (°C)

The high water temperature was recorded 32.5°C in month of June at station-3 and the low water temperature was recorded as 26.0°C in the month of March at station-1(Table 3-5).

Salinity (‰)

The maximum salinity was recorded 35(‰) in the month May at station-3 and minimum was recorded 29.5 (‰) in the month of March at station-2 (Table 3-5).


The maximum pH was recorded 8.2 in the month May at station-3 and minimum was recorded 7.8 in the month of June at station-3 (Table 3-5).

Dissolved oxygen (mg/l)

The maximum dissolved oxygen was recorded 4.87 mg/l in the month January at station-3 and minimum was recorded 0.279 mg/l in the month of June at station-1 (Table 3-5).

Biological oxygen demand (mg/l)

The maximum BOD was recorded 3.129 mg/l in the month March at station-2 and minimum was recorded 0.183 mg/l in the month of May at station-1 (Table 3-5).

Chemical oxygen demand (mg/l)

The maximum COD was recorded 0.951 mg/l in the month March at station-3 and minimum was recorded 0.209 mg/l in the month of May at station-2 (Table 3-5).


Ammonia (μM): The maximum ammonia was recorded 2.213 μM in the month January (station-3) and minimum was recorded 1.018 μM in the month of May (station-1) (Table 3-5).

Total nitrogen (μM): The maximum total nitrogen was recorded 22.36 μM in the month June (station-3) and minimum was recorded 10.56 μM in the month of April (station-1) (Table 3-5).

Total phosphorous (μM): The maximum total phosphorous was recorded 2.356 μM in the month February (station-3) and minimum was recorded 0.361μM in the month of May (station-2) (Table 3-5).

Reactive silicate (μM): The maximum reactive silicate was recorded 3.245 μM in the month March (station-3) and minimum was recorded 1.023 μM in the month of June (station-1) (Table 3-5).


Marine zooplankton functions at many levels in ocean food webs, as consumers, producers and prey. Ranging in size from microns to centimeters and meters, they are also major contributors to elemental cycling and vertical fluxes. The zooplankton production gradually decreases with increasing depth, where the offshore stations yield less abundance then the coastal waters [3-5]. The high rate of zooplankton productions influences enrichment of organic matter and plays a vital role in secondary and tertiary productions, represented by young instars of fishes. The survival of the young of herbivorous finfish and shellfishes such as tilapia, sardinella and mud crabs and shrimps may depend on the availability of abundant littoral zooplankton and benthos aided by omnivory and high ecological efficiencies [16,17]. Planktonic fish larvae prey on zooplankton and occasionally phytoplankton. Several families of finfish and shellfishes consume zooplankton wholly or partly in various stages of their life histories. There are thus crucial to achieving high finfish and shellfish yields in the tropics even if their role seems to be mainly through the young stages of fishes [5].

In the present study abundance and distribution zooplankton was found to dependent on water quality and coexisting biotic communities at given point of time. The temperature and plankton productivity are positively correlated. The variation of productivity is related to variation in temperature. Similar findings were reported by [3-5]. Temperature is an important factor which regulated the biogeochemical activities in the aquatic environment. Water temperature influences aquatic weeds, algal blooms [3] and surrounding air temperature [3,4]. The metabolic and physiological activities and life process such as feeding, reproduction, movements and distribution of aquatic organisms are greatly influenced by water temperature. Hydrogen ion concentration (pH) in surface waters remained alkaline throughout the study period at all the stations with maximum value during in the month of May and the minimum during in the month of March (Table 3-5). The high pH recorded might be due to the influence of seawater penetration and high biological activity [18] and due to the occurrence of high photosynthetic activity [19]. The salinity acts as a major ecological factor in the distribution of living organisms and its variation caused by dilution and evaporation is most likely to influence the faunal distribution of the coastal ecosystems [20]. Presently, there were no such wide salinity variations, which observed between two stations between the months. The structure of associations of the zooplankton is indirectly linked with salinity, because the stability of the niches is controlled by its distribution. The distribution of various species undulates up and down the estuary depending on the salinity variations.

Biological oxygen demand of the study area have been increased from one station to another station with increasing distance from discharge point, the temperature is decreased, however oxygen level is increased with distance. It shows that temperature is affecting the dissolved oxygen level in water [21]. This may be due to several factors, the rise in temperature, increased biological activity, respiration of organisms and the increased rate of decomposition of organic matter. [10] has also reported similar pattern of monthly variations in BOD in the Arasalar and Cauvery estuaries. Chemical Oxygen Demand (COD) determines the oxygen required for chemical oxidation of organic matter with the help of strong chemical oxidant. In the present investigation maximum COD was recorded in the month March (station-3) and minimum was recorded in the month of May (station-2) were observed during the study month respectively due to low rainfall and increase in salinity, temperature, phytoplankton productivity and microbial utilization of oxygen at the time of decomposition. Nutrients are considered as one of the most important parameters in the marine environment by influencing the growth, reproduction and metabolic activities of living beings. Nutrients, more importantly the ammonia and silicate have emerged as the main factors controlling the phytoplankton growth reported by [22]. Distribution of nutrients is mainly based on the season, tidal conditions and freshwater flow from land source. In India, many studies on physico-chemical and biological water quality parameters and abundance of zooplankton have been carried out [3,4,23,24].

In the present study the most dominant copepod species were Acartia sp and Eucalanus sp. In general, copepod species flourished at different month of the year [13]. Cyclopoida was represented by Oithona sp. Microsetella sp and Macrosetella sp. The distribution of some Acartia species is known to be affected by temperature and salinity regimes [25,26]. Numerical abundance of copepods was also recorded by different coastal system of India [24,27]. Foraminiferans are key group and sensitive to environmental changes and they act as bioindicators of the ecosystem [28]. Globigerina rubescence, G.opima, Tintinnopsis cylindrica, T. rubulosa and Eutintinnus tenuis has revealed these species are dominant, others subdominant and still others rare. Zooplankton community is highly sensitive to environmental variation. As a result, change in their diversity and species abundance or community composition can provide important indications of environmental change or disturbance, hence, they are of ecological importance. Further the important factors that controlled the distribution of zooplanktons were rainfall, river discharge and salinity as opined by [29]. Since the monthly variations of zooplankton are related to a variety of environmental factors in aquatic environments [3,4] the approach adopted in the present investigation, namely to relate temporal changes in diversity to temporal changes in environmental conditions, resulted in the development of a better understanding of the nature of interactions between the zooplankton community and its environment in the different coast.


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