Between Pacific Tides

Marine Plankton of the Pacific Coast

Written by
Edward F. Ricketts
for the
Second Edition
Between Pacific Tides

Compiled by
Robert 'Roy' J. van de Hoek
Field Biologist & Geographer
Wetlands Action Network

Most tide-pool life depends ultimately on plankton, the most primitive foodstuff in the ocean. Marine plankton is basic, the first link in the food chains which culminate in whales, fish, starfish, and humans. But although many of the relationships in these chains are direct, tracing them is another and more difficult matter.

The term plankton is used to include all the living organisms, plant or animal, usually minute, that swim weakly or drift about on or in the water. Large and active free-swimmers such as fish, squid, seals, and whales are never included with the term.

The diatoms, microscopic plants of which there are many types, usually are regarded as the most primitive of organisms, and first in the ecological series.......

Quite recently, however, Atkins suggests that the ultra-minute nannoplankton, organisms too small for nettings - mostly self-nourishing dinoflagellates - "make up the greatest proportion of the oceanic biota."* Developing that line of inquiry would be a truly herculean task.
*Biological Abstracts, 4405, February 1946.

The erratic nature of the subject matter is chiefly to blam for the fact that so much about diatom production seems to be anomalous.....

Such knowledge as we have is the work of a few groups.

At Friday Harbor, although the gaps are larg, a foundation at least has been laid. Unfortunately, the plankton calendar scheduled..............

Students of plankton have devoted a great deal of effort to developing and checking the various sampling technics on which the studies are based. After the kinks had been worked out of the actual physical samplings at La Jolla, it remained to determine whether or not pier samples taken at the surface of the water represented a "fair" quota.

Subsurface collections were reported by Allen (October 1923,....

Much generalized work, essential to an understanding of the whole plantion situation, has becom recently available. In chapters 16 to 19 of Sverdrup, Johnson, and Fleming (1942) there is a very good summary and review, and another in Harvey (1942).

Aikawa (1936) has shown in the Aleutions ...societies can be traced seasonally and biogeographically.

Diatom systematics have been treated for southern California ...

Dinoflagellates ....

The larger and less ephemeral planktonic organisms have been studied ...

Only one large thesis can be stated with any degree of certainty. The idea of hierarchy is implicit. Rank behind rank, societies stand in mutual interdependence. From the most minute and ephemeral bacteria and diatoms, clear up to the fish, seals, and whales, each rank is supported by the abundance of smaller and more transient creatues under it. Each in turn contributes to the series next above it. Ascending ranks have each a littlel more leeway in the matter of food storage, a little more resilience, a little more freedom of movement in the environment. Although the individuals are larger, their numbers are smaller. And their spores - the resting stages - are less significant in the life history. Finally, at the top of the hierarchy, the disintegrating body of the whale supports astronomical hordes of bacteria, busily engaged in breaking down the complex and slowly assembled proteins into simpler units which fertilize the waters for the oncoming crop of diatoms - James Joyce's recorso theme in its original manifestation.

Each higher order, instead of ruling the ranks of individuals below, is actually ruled by them. Each rank is completely at the mercy of its subjects, dependent on their abundance or accessibility. All the schemes which our social order prides itself on having discovered have been in use by societies of marine animals far back into the dim geologic past. The units comprising human society very commonly say one thing and be another. Not the least of the many values of marine sociology is the fact that the sea animals can be only themselves.

There has been no attempt to make this list complete, even for the Pacific; that would require too much space. The aim has been instead to provide a suggestive bibliography, which, followed out, should lead the investigator into a fairly complete list.

Perhaps attention should be called to the fact that the "University of California Publications in Oceanography" were orginally entitled and issued as Bulletin of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, La Jolla, California, Technical Series.

Aikawa, H. 1936. "On the diatom communities in the waters surrounding Japan," Rec. Ocean, Works Japan, 8(1):1-159.

Allen, W.E. 1923 (June). "Some tide-water collections of marine diatoms taken at half-hour intervals near San Diego, California," University Calif. Pub. Zool, 22:413-416.

Closing Thoughts by Robert Roy van de Hoek
2002, revised with new excerpts and remarks in August 2003
The plankton essay by Edward Ricketts did not appear in the 1939 first edition of Between Pacific Tides because Ed Ricketts began thinking intensely about plankton in the 1940s. The plankton essay first appeared in 1948 in the second edition, and Ricketts' essay was reprinted in the third edition. In the fourth edition Joel Hedgpeth wrote a sequel essay to the plankton essay, which Hedgpeth called "Beyond the Tides: The Uncertain Sea." Sadly, for historical context, Ricketts plankton essay was not printed in the fourth edition of 1968, nor was it printed in the 1985 edition. Rickett's plankton essay is now becoming forgotten, but this republication of excerpts of Ricketts' plankton essay on the internet brings yet another part of Ricketts' fine mind, which influenced John Steinbeck, to the public. Perhaps the sixth edition of Between Pacific Tides, if it is ever written will put Ricketts' and Hedgpeth essay together juxtaposed as two views of science and the environment in 1948 and 1968. Perhaps a marine biologist of our new millenium will write a new plankton essay with perspectives of what we know now. Perhaps I will write that essay. Joel Hedgpeth wrote his own footnote at the end of the plankton essay in the third edition of 1952 that is worthy of quotation:
"In the twelve years since this summary was attempted, one of the most intensive plankton investigations in history has been conductd along the Pacific coast; some aspects of it are summarized (with bibliographies) in the various reports of the Marine Research Committee. Also there has appeared Sir Alister Hardy's fine book Open Sea (Part I), The World of Plankton; Part II, Fish and Fisheries; Boston, Houghton Mifflin, 1956, 1959).
We see that Joel Hedgpeth refers to the Plankton essay as a summary. Dr. Hedgpeth under Part IV of Ricketts' essay, added three paragraphs on Red Tides. Here is a brief passage from the second paragraph that was written by Hedgpeth:
"The red tides, with their consquent havoc, are only the most spectacular of fluctuations in the sea. Our sardines have been undergoing some sort of fluctuation apparently unrelated to the fishing pressure; following the recent decline, an investigation combining the efforts of the California Academy of Sciences, the California Division of Fish and Game, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service was underway in 1949."

Perhaps Ed Ricketts' plankton essay could be revisited with additions of new paragraphs inserted between Ricketts' paragraphs as Joel Hedgpeth saw fit to do. The entire text of Between Pacific Tides has new edited inserted passages that were added by Hedgpeth and now also by Phillips' in the fifth addition. Sadly, the fifth edition has neither Ricketts' essay, nor Hedgpeth essay, nor even a new essay on plankton by David Phillips. The sixth edition, if it is considered by Stanford University Press, must consider a return to a plankton essay, as it would be in the spirit of what Ed Ricketts had in mind and what Joel Hedgpeth recognized by including his essay in the 1952 third edition and by writing his own plankton essay in the 1968 f ourth edition.

In summary, with a history focus, I look fondly at the passages where Ed Ricketts remembers to discuss the larger mammals, such as the whales, dolphins, and seals. It is also pleasing to see that Dr. Hedgpeth did not change the plankton essay in 1952, but simply added those three paragraphs. Although at this time, I am only able to provide excerpts of Rickettts' essay and Hedgpeth's additions, I do hope in the near future to scribe the entire essay onto this web site. Since the second edition is unavailable at used bookstores because as I learned from a Hedgpeth article only 2,500 copies of the second edition were printed, it seemed worthwhile to me, at least, to scribe at least parts this plankton essay. If anyone wants to send me portions of the essay after they scribe part of it, I would certainly add them into this web site's pages. Joel Hedgpeth hints at letting this essay go away because so much has changed and it is not relevant, but I disagree, not just from a scientific view, but also from a historical view. In any event, it is up to you as a reader now to make your own determination as to the relevance of Ricketts' plankton essay. Hedgpeth did say in 1978, in The Outer Shores, on page 47 (Part 1) that: "... the essay on which he [Ricketts] lavished so many hours is now a historical curiosity." Hedgpeth also said: "...The conclusion of the plankton essay, however, is interesting for its indication of Ed's way of thinking, his increasing effort to put everything together in his mind and demonstrate the unity of all his knowledge."