When people hear the word "migration," they think of animals that move from a feeding area to a breeding area and back each year. But the greatest migration on Earth happens twice every night. The movement is largely vertical and performed by plankton followed by predatory fish, squid, octopus and other species that have acquired a taste for plankton. The migration starts deep in the waters of the ocean at sunset. As they move, the plankton nibble on plant plankton and other tasty morsels in the water and, eventually, some on each other. The feeding ends just before dawn when the plankton retreat to the depths of the ocean to hide during the day until the next evening, when they migrate back up the water column.

In Planktonia, Erich Hoyt invites readers to dive into the dazzling nighttime ocean. Countless microscopic plankton -- larval creatures such as ornate ghost pipefish, left-handed hermit crabs and bony-eared assfish -- ascend to the upper waters to feed, returning to the depths before sunrise. These tiny planktonic creatures are delicate and beautiful; some look terrifying; and most look nothing like the creatures they will become as adults. This great vertical migration attracts larger adult creatures, too, from the solitary 6-inch (15 cm) bigfin reef squid and the fierce and hungry 6 1/2 foot (2 m) female blanket octopus, which is up to 40,000 times heavier than her male mate. Everyone comes here for the midnight feast, and they are all ravenously hungry.

Chapters in this book include:

  • Hawai'i: From Bluewater to Blackwater
  • Awesome Anilao
  • The Gulf Stream Procession of Life
  • Blackwater White Sea
  • Precious Life of Plankton
  • Blackwater Unlimited
  • From Blackwater Passion to Protection.

All life in the ocean depends on plankton. Plankton plays a key role in sequestering carbon against climate change. The great nightly vertical migration highlights the importance of protecting not only ocean species but also ecosystems that embrace ocean processes from the depths of the sea to surface waters.


The book's eight chapters are short, the text giving way to hundreds of large and often full-page images of weird and wonderful planktonic creatures, illuminated against the blackness of the ocean. This remarkable collection of images includes scary parasites such as the big-eyed amphipod, magical-looking larvae such as that of the peanut worm, and alien-like translucent forms such as deep sea salps, sea angels, jellyfish and squid... Later in the book, Hoyt's writing turns to the importance of protecting these amazing creatures and their nightly ritual... We need a greater appreciation and understanding of these ecosystems if they are to survive -- just a little "planktonic love", as Hoyt puts it. Planktonia should certainly inspire that.

- Tom Ireland

A great book to keep on hand -- read it cover to cover or dip in now and then when you need a dose of nature's dazzle.

- Hakai Magazine Newsletter

Hoyt brings readers into the nighttime ocean to reveal the midnight feast for countless microscopic plankton that range from the tiny and delicate to the human-sized and terrifying.

- Cassandra Drudi

Erich Hoyt's outstanding new book, Planktonia, goes a long way to reveal this otherwise secret world to us... Hidden from human sight, the Earth's greatest migration actually takes place not once, but twice every night in our oceans.

- Henricus Peters

Dazzlingly unusual, these images of marine creatures, comprising plankton and other organisms, illuminate a journey that happens every day under the cover of darkness.

- Gege Li

Best books on marine and coastal wildlife round-up... Featuring stunning detailed images throughout, Hoyt's latest book examines the nightlife of these tiny ocean plankton and the stories of the wildlife photographers that join them in darkness to capture their vertical migrations.

- Freya Parr

Hoyt delivers a breathtaking collection of state-of-the-art blackwater photography, with work taken by photographers from around the world. If you love the sea, you'll be dazzled by this work, including images from the Arctic Circle, Japan, Florida, Hawaii, Taiwan, and British Columbia. You'll see translucent jellyfish, squid, octopus, eel, larva, sea angels, worms, anemones, and fish during the nightly vertical migration in the sea.

- Nature Book Guide Blog

Conservationist Hoyt's book tracks plankton's nightly migrations (which attract predators like squids and lion's mane jellyfish) with stunning backlit photographs by notable black-water photographers... Beyond the stunningly beautiful photographs, all made with regard for the ecosystem, is Hoyt's text that touches on plankton's key role in carbon sequestration against climate change... Consider for all libraries.

- Maggie Knapp

Noted conservationist and marine scientist, Hoyt elegantly explains the importance of this awesome phenomenon not just for our oceans but how it helps regulate the whole planet. The stunning photography captures these mysterious creatures and their midnight feast in detail, from the ornate ghost pipefish to the bony-eared assfish.

- Geographical Magazine

I would highly recommend the book... The stunning underwater photography in the book reveals a host of fascinating rarely seen sea creatures, mostly larval planktonic marvels -- many trillions of tiny vertical migrators in endless combinations of shapes and colours that come to feast every night under the cover of darkness.

- Peter Franklin

Whilst our planet is covered 75 percent in salt water to the extent it should be called 'Blue Planet' or 'Planet Ocean', we still know very little about the ocean waters and their treasures: the amazing organisms that call these waters home... Erich Hoyt's outstanding new book Planktonia goes a long way to reveal this otherwise secret world.

- UK National Association for Environmental Education

Selection, Winner 2023 Children and Young Adult Nonfiction... Science, history and photography are ably combined in this visually stunning book to provide a rich educational experience.

- American Society of Jounalists and Authors