According to recent studies, plankton help produce half of all the oxygen needed for our planet to exist.
The team of scientists studied plankton for more than 3 and a half years.
They collected more than 35,000 samples from over 210 sites, and traveled about 87,000 miles around the world to conduct the new study.
Thanks to all this information, the scientists from the Tara Oceans Consortium concluded that the role of the microorganisms known as plankton is not only to feed the marine creatures.
The plankton are actually helping support all life forms on Earth because they provide half of the oxygen needed for life to exist.
Plankton consists mainly of microscopic creatures known as zooplankton and plants, known as phytoplankton.
Also, plankton is made of different bacteria, viruses, fish larvae and other tiny organisms that live in the oceans.
According to the new findings, just as plants do on land, the phytoplankton helps produce oxygen using photosynthesis, which is the natural process used by plants to produce their food.
Experts explain that in order for photosynthesis work, carbon dioxide is needed. That is why phytoplankton helps fight against the effects of climate change by creating a barrier that separates carbon dioxide produced by the burning fossil fuels.
Phytoplankton thrive during spring time because this is when they get light and nutrients abundantly.
Aside from discovering the important role plankton has in producing oxygen for the entire planet, the scientists also found that these microorganisms actually contain more than 40 million genes.
Compared to humans, plankton have four times more genes.
Although plankton live all around the world, scientists found that they are very sensitive to temperature.
Chris Bowler, researcher at the biology department of École Normale Supérieure, explained that temperature is a very important factor that helps determine how the plankton communities settle.
Bowler added that even though plankton can help fight against climate change, it can also be very affected by what is currently happening with our environment.
50 years ago, scientists had no idea that the microscopic specks that floated around in the oceans are actually alive.
The new study revealed that not only are the plankton alive, they are also interacting with each other.