Water Fleas

Water Flea

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What are water fleas?

You may have been swimming in a lake some time, some summer ago, and noticed small bugs making rippled on the water's surface. It is quite likely that you were watching a water flea. Water fleas belong to the crustacean group - are related to crayfish and shrimp - and are not actually fleas at all. They were probably dubbed fleas because of the way that they hop through water. You will find this jointed-limbed creature in fresh water. They are mostly transparent and their bodies are encased in a thin, flat shell-like covering. You may also want to learn about the spiny water flea as well.

The water flea is often found in nutrient rich fresh water, mostly lakes but often some rock pools with a high amount of freshwater run-off. They reproduce in the summertime and have the ability to do so without fertilization, or pathenogenically. They give birth to live young. Then, some eggs form into males, which will fertilize the eggs in females. These then become "winter eggs".

Because we can see right through the water flea, it is easy to examine their bodily functions. We know that they have two sets of antenna, one underneath for swimming through the lakes they often inhabit. They can breathe in the oxygen present in the water through their thin shells.

The water flea feeds on small green algae. Their tiny jaws allow the algae to be ground up before eating with the help of their ten feet. The water flea serves as a meal for creatures such as small fish, salamanders and other small reptiles, and aquatic insects.

Water fleas do not affect humans in the same way that normal fleas do. As in, these guys do not attack and bite us. The water flea does play a huge part in the circle of life however. Many types of fish that we eat feed upon water fleas when they are young. Although it is a common misconception that the water flea is like our tiny pet biter, it is not like it any way other than the hopping.



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