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Detritus & Bacteria

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Detritus & Bacteria - Part 1
Open your notebook to a new page, labelled with the date and the title "Detritus and Bacteria." There is a vast amount of plant and animal life within an estuary, as you can see in the picture below. What do you think happens when plants and animals die in the estuary? Write your answer in your notebook.

Saddlebag Island, Washington
Sea Star, Barnacles, and Kelp

Detritus & Bacteria -
Part 2

When something dies in the estuary, it immediately becomes food. Crabs, sea stars, and other animals begin to tear apart and eat the organism. In the picture below, you can see a dead fish being eaten by a sea star and a dungeness crab.

copyright Still Hope Productions, Inc. 2004

What do you think will happen to the pieces of fish that are not eaten? Write your answer in your notebook.

These small particles fall to the floor of the sea and begin to rot. (Detritus is dead, rotting stuff). This stuff is eaten by many organisms of the estuary. Click on the link below to read about animals that eat detritus (detritivores or deposit eaters).


In your notebook, write down what you learned about detritus. Also, write down any questions you have about detritus.

Detritus & Bacteria -
Part 3

As you've learned, detritus is dead, rotting stuff. But, it also contains bacteria. What do you think about bacteria? In your notebook, label a new section "Bacteria" and tell what you know and think about bacteria.
Then, click on the "bacteria" links to read about bacteria.

Now, in your notebook, answer these questions about bacteria:
  1. What are bacteria?
  2. Where can bacteria be found?
  3. What do bacteria do?
  4. Has your thinking about bacteria changed? How?

The bacteria in detritus helps to break down dead matter, which is then eaten by other organisms. Many animals get their nutrients from detritus, such as filter feeders (clams, oysters, and mussels), crabs, snails, and barnacles. It's all a part of the system of life - things die, are broken down, and eaten by other things, which in turn die.

Be prepared for our whole-group discussion time by having your notebook filled out with the following items:
  1. What you've learned today.
  2. Any questions you still have about detritus and bacteria.
  3. Interesting things you'd like to share (such as scientific drawings, interesting facts, etc.).

Become an estuary expert!

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