The Paradox of the Plankton

  title={The Paradox of the Plankton},
  author={George Evelyn Hutchinson},
  journal={The American Naturalist},
  pages={137 - 145}
  • G. Hutchinson
  • Published 1 May 1961
  • Environmental Science
  • The American Naturalist
The problem that I wish to discuss in the present contribution is raised by the very paradoxical situation of the plankton, particularly the phytoplankton, of relatively large bodies of water. We know from laboratory experiments conducted by many workers over a long period of time (summary in Provasoli and Pintner, 1960) that most members of the phytoplankton are phototrophs, able to reproduce and build up populations in inorganic media containing a source of CO2, inorganic nitrogen, sulphur… 

The phytoplanktonic ways of life.

  • G. Fogg
  • Environmental Science
    The New phytologist
  • 1991
The adaptations of phytoplankton to life in suspension in water are considered with particular reference to hydromechanical factors ranging from molecular motion to ocean currents. The smallest

Paradox of the phytoplankton―an overview

The ecology of the phytoplankton is examined with particular reference to the question of whether or not competition for a limited amount of nutrient occurs among aquatic unicellular algae.

Some comments on picoplankton and its importance in the pelagic ecosystem

The metabolism of the ultraplankton commonly dominates in pelagic ecosystems, although it seems to contribute little organic matter to higher trophic levels, and must be taken into account in the determination of primary productivity.

The ecology of plankton in Scottish coastal waters

The lives of the plants, animals and bacteria of the plankton are ruled by the diffusive nature of their fluid medium, in which vertical turbulence is sometimes checked by density gradients caused by

The Paradox of the Plankton: An Equilibrium Hypothesis

  • R. Petersen
  • Environmental Science
    The American Naturalist
  • 1975
A model of nutrient-limited phytoplankton growth, based on Michaelis-Menten uptake kinetics, is offered as an explanation of the so-called paradox of the plankton. The model suggests that an

The Paradox of the Plankton

The proposed mechanisms that are discussed mainly include spatial and temporal heterogeneity in physical and biological environment, externally imposed or self-generated spatial segregation, horizontal mesoscale turbulence of ocean characterized by coherent vortices, oscillation and chaos generated by several internal and external causes, stable coexistence and compensatory dynamic under fluctuating temperature in resource competition, and finally the role of toxin-producing phytoplankton in maintaining the coexist and biodiversity of the overall plankton populations.

Successional Change in the Planktonic Vegetation: Species, Structures, Scales

Plankton is the community of plants, animals and microbes which are adapted to live suspended in the pelagic of lakes and seas and which are liable to passive entrainment within the motion of the

Phytoplankton Community Ecology: The Role of Limiting Nutrients

This paper is a summary and synthesis of the role of nutrients and spatial and temporal fluctuations in controlling the species composition, diversity, and seasonal succession of planktonic algal

Control of phytoplankton growth in nutrient recycling ecosystems. Theory and terminology

Some of the principles governing phytoplankton growth, biomass, and species composition in 2-layered pelagic ecosystems are explored using an idealized, steady-state, mathematical model, based on

Plankton, Status and Role of




The Status of Desmids in the Plankton and the Determination of Phytoplankton Quotients

The principal aim of the present investigation has been to determine which species, varieties, or forms of desmids encountered in the British freshwater plankton may be considered as true plankters and thus can be included in quotient determinations.

Absorption of nutrients by aquatic plants

Formulae are derived for the rate of nutrient absorption by aquatic plants approximating the shapes of spheres, discs, cylinders, and plates. Other parameters are the size and specific gravity of the

Ecological Aspects of Succession in Natural Populations

If two species live in an identical niche, competing for the same food supply, maintained at a constant level, one species will entirely displace the other, and Dominance in competition is dependent on the environment conditions.

Species Abundance and Community Organization

The thesis contained herein is that the numerical abundance and spatial distribution of all species found must be taken into account before an understanding of community organization can be obtained.


  • R. Macarthur
  • Environmental Science
    Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
  • 1957
The observed populations are not under the control of very local or rapid temporal processes; i.e., they are in a near-equilibrium state, and the hypotheses will be ones which yield an equilibrium or near-Equilibrium population.

Behavior of Mixed Populations and the Problem of Natural Selection

The present paper gives an account of the recent theoretical investigations of the problem and summarizes the whole theory of growth of mixed populations, pointing out those conclusions that have already been confirmed by experimental investigations of one of the authors.

On the Relative Abundance of Species

  • R. Macarthur
  • Environmental Science
    The American Naturalist
  • 1960
The relative abundances of equilibrium species are of considerable ecological interest and frequently can be deduced from the assumption that increase in one species population results in a roughly equal decrease in the populations of other species.

A Theoretical Ecological Model of Size Distributions Among Species of Animals

It is suggested that if a really complete faunistic list for a given biotope could be constructed the size distribution by species would approximate the form given by the model.

Interspecific Competition

IN a recent article about interspecific competition, Williamson1 quotes a definition of this process by Elton and Miller2 and adds that “it is difficult to distinguish between some cases that they

The competitive exclusion principle.

By emphasizing the very aspects that might result in their denial of them were they less plain the authors can keep the principle explicitly present in their minds untit they see if its implications are, or are noty as unpleasant as their subconscious might suppose.