Outsmarted by the copepods

It’s difficult to maintain decent levels of self-confidence when animals without brains are constantly outwitting you. When I have picked copepods from the nets on the first day of my experiment, I put half into my incubation bottles and let them eat away happily for 24 hours. After that time, all I have to do is transfer them into new bottles I prepare with new water full of phytoplankton and other preferred copepod delicacies. Sounds easy, right? But I don’t want to cause the copepods any stress (they are, so far, blissfully ignorant of their upcoming deaths by freezing) so I have to use a plastic tube similar to a straw and suspend each individually inside to move them. Similar to when you put your finger on a straw when it’s in your drink, meaning you can carry those few ml out of the drink and drop it on your neighbour’s head when you move your finger. So I’m there, chasing 60 copepods around with a straw, trying to suck them inside it. But they move so fast! They trick me into thinking they’re just chilling there in a patch of water, let me get really close, then the exact millisecond I release my finger they dart off in a zigzag across the bottle, moving faster than tiny jelly bullets. Also, they know exactly where in the bottle I can’t reach with my straw. They gather in those spots and conspire together about how best to confuse me. Sometimes I’m sure they gather all their poo and aggregate it into copepod shaped blobs, so I feel the joy of catching one and then the immediate disappointment when I realise it is, in fact, just ‘stuff’. Crafty copepods.

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