Virtual Learning Center

Wildlife Wonders

Today is Pond Day!

Ponds are great habitats for all kinds of plants and animals.  As we already learned some things, like amphibians (frogs, toads and salamanders), dragonflies and damselflies, start their lives in water and then move out to the forest or into the air for their adult lives.  Others like fish remain in the water their entire lives. 

In a pond their several distinct (sub)habitats or zones where different plants and animals live.

Swamp plant zone – this is closest to the shore and plants rooted in very shallow water are found here.  Grasses, sedges and rushes are typical of this area and even if the water dries up they can still survive.  Amphibians, birds and mammals find food and shelter here. 

Floating leaf and “emergent” zone.  This area does not normally dry out and if it did the plants would not survive.  The water lily is commonly found here.  The roots are in the mud, but the leaves are seen floating on top of the water.  Under the water lily leaves are snails and their egg masses and the egg masses of many insects.  The nymphs of dragonflies, mayflies and damselflies, along with fish fry can be found here. 

Submerged plant zone, plants grow completely underwater except when they flower.  Examples include pondweeds, milfoils and waterweeds.  Turtles, ducks, and fishes feed on waterweed. Muskrats dive to collect it and swans use their long necks to reach down for it. 

Free floating zone – Have you ever seen a green carpet of a very small leaved plant on top of  the water?  That is probably duckweed (Not to be confused with blue-green algae that looks like thick green paint and is very bad for the pond!) Duckweed is not rooted in the mud and many predatory insects and spiders run around on the surface of the leaves looking for prey.

Bottom habitat – in stagnant freshwater ponds if you were to scoop this up you would find smelly mud or silt.  This organic material contains many “decomposers” – fungi, bacteria and algae that help to break down the dead plant and animals that float to the bottom of the pond.  Here you can find worms, mussels and mosquito larvae.  Crawling on the bottom you might also find dragonflies, damselflies, mayflies and crayfish. 

Water surface habitat – here spiders and insects can “walk on water”.  The surface acts like an elastic skin stretching over it in what is called “surface tension” at the point where water molecules meet the air. Because of the surface tension water striders (aka pond skaters), whirligig beetles and fish spiders can move about freely on the upper surface and mosquito larvae can hang down. 

There is so much life in a pond and a vital part of the “ecosystem”.  Everything is connected to everything else and the pond habitat is one strand of the web in this connection!

Aquatic WILD activity Are You Me? Match images of juvenile and adult species to identify similarities and differences between life stages of aquatic animals.

Resources:

https://www.fishwildlife.org/application/files/9015/3514/3030/Are_You_Me.pdf

The Pond by Gerald Thompson and Jennifer Coldrey

Over and Under the Pond by Kate Messner with art by Christopher Silas Neal

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