Published October 2022 in US, Canada, UK, Europe, Australia, New Zealand. Can be ordered from your favourite bookstore or online site. PLANKTONIA is a popular large format hardcover written for ages 10 to adult with 160+ state-of-the-art photos. Firefly Books, US, Canada and UK, Japanese edition, Hara Shobo, 2024. Bibliography, glossary, index, 10 x 10 inches (25.4 cm square), 176 pages. ISBN-10: 0228103835; ISBN-13: 978-0228103837

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:

  1. Introducing a Cast of Trillions
  2. Hawai’i: From Bluewater to Blackwater 
  3. Awesome Anilao 
  4. The Gulf Stream Procession of Life 
  5. Blackwater White Sea 
  6. Precious Life of Plankton 
  7. Blackwater Unlimited 
  8. 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.

Japanese edition, 2024:

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What reviewers are saying about PLANKTONIA

— Special feature by Dr Helen Scales in ‘Discover Wildlife’, reviewing the best popular science books on marine and coastal wildlife, with Planktonia leading the list: “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.”

— Book Highlight of the Month in BBC Wildlife, October issue, author interview and lead review: “Welcome to the world of plankton….Thanks to the increase in popularity of both macrophotography and diving in the open sea at night, we now have visual evidence of just how eclectic and vibrant these plankton are. Planktonia is a tribute to these photographers and the scientists they work with to document the many species and their unique attributes and behaviours.”

Awarded May 2023: Best Nonfiction Book of 2022—Young Adult/Children, American Society of Journalists & Authors—ASJA, New York

Finalist for AAAS/Subaru Young Adult/Children Science Book Award, 2023—AAAS, Washington, DC

— Recommended as one of “the best books to give as gifts this Christmas 2022” by Geographical Magazine:  “Noted conservationist and marine scientist, Hoyt elegantly explains the importance of this awesome phenomenon [of vertical migration] 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.”

— Review in Hakai Magazine, Canada, 9 September 2022: “When the world seems wearying, sometimes stunning photos and a few shots of natural history fabulosity can help. Planktonia, the latest book by prolific author Erich Hoyt, includes 150 color photos of planktonic creatures in their otherworldly glory with a focus on their world at night, when countless plankton ascend to surface waters to feed and reverse the trip at sunrise. This vertical migration is, as Hoyt writes, ‘the greatest migration on Earth,’ and includes ‘miniature creatures of intricate design, a riot of color, near-transparency or iridescence, and flashing lights. The book’s eight chapters open with a brief explanation of the topic at hand, followed by state-of-the-art blackwater photography of plankton with natural history notes.  Planktonia is 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.”

— Maggie Knapp in Library Journal (Feb. 1, 2023) writes: “Conservationist Hoyt’s (Strange Sea Creatures) book tracks plankton’s nightly migrations… with stunning backlit photographs. 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….Verdict: Sea angels, tonguefish, hydromedusae, and peppermint shrimp in all their majestic beauty. Consider for all libraries.”

”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, New Scientist Magazine, December 2022

”In Planktonia, ocean expert Erich Hoyt invites readers to dive into this other world — the sparkling and dazzling realm of the ocean at night. Countless microscopic plankton — larvae-sized creatures such as ornate ghost pipefish, left-handed hermit crabs and bony-eared sawfish — ascend to the ocean’s upper levels to feed, then return to the depths before sunrise. By their appearances, these tiny creatures would seem to have been designed in a glass factory — they are all so delicate and beautiful — and most fascinatingly they can change dramatically in appearance as they develop into adulthood. Erich Hoyt’s outstanding new book, Planktonia, goes a long way to reveal this otherwise secret world to us.Wildlife Australia

Quill & Quire’s Fall Nonfiction Previews, September 2022: ”Conservationist and scientist Erich 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.”

— “Erich Hoyt has dedicated this richly illustrated book to a migration that goes largely unseen and unnoticed, yet dwarfs even the biggest mammal or bird migrations on the planet. It is, of course, the nightly vertical migration of plankton. 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…a remarkable collection of images. 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, MRSB, in The Biologist, Royal Society of Biology

— “We were honored to interview respected naturalist, conservationist, author, and researcher, Erich Hoyt about his newest book, Planktonia. (The interview appears in our Winter 2022-2023 issue and the extended version is available as a separate download. Visit our Downloads page to access both versions, free of charge and access the full interview here.) 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. The photographers live for their art, taking risks by diving at night in the open ocean with no reference points except the surface and the lights. They focus on a few small square cubic centimeters to compose a detailed, colorful image of a moving creature the size of a small ant or smaller.”  — Nature Book Guide

“Whilst our planet is covered 75% 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.” — Henricus Peters, National Assoc. for Environmental Education

“Small things that support the ocean. This is a book that is highly regarded in various fields…for its artistic and educational value. When you open the beautiful cover, you will see a variety of plankton. As you turn the pages and read the careful explanations while being overwhelmed by the light and colours emitted by each plankton, the theme eventually turn to the various problems that are occurring in oceans, such as overuse, global warming and acidification. The theme then shifts to pointing out the importance of problem solving. In my case, what remains after reading the book is a feeling that everything is connected on Earth, for better or for worse. When you learn about the grand role played by small and ephemeral things that are strangely beautiful, your common sense and worldview may be overturned.” — Kotoe Sasamori, Messages from the Ocean

“Photographers, including Japanese, photograph zooplankton glowing in the sea at night, and a marine biologist guides you through the world of unique creatures. With over 160 color photographs, we explore the charm of ephemeral yet robust microscopic creatures underwater. Beautiful! These photos are beautiful because they were not taken under a microscope in a laboratory, but because they were ecological photos taken underwater in the open ocean where no light could reach.”— Atsushi Tsuda, Professor, Atmosphere and Ocean Research Institute, University of Tokyo, Executive Officer/Vice President, University of Tokyo.

“The main character of this book is ‘zooplankton at night.’ During the day, they hide in deep water to avoid predators, but at sunset they rise to the shallows and begin feeding. This is an epoch-making illustrated book that perfectly captures the way of life of animals that undergo this ‘diurnal vertical migration.’ It depicts not only the shapes and colors of mysterious animals, but also the complex relationships between species.” 
— Susumu Ohtsuka, President of the Plankton Society of Japan

— Eight-page excerpt with photographs in Geographical, the magazine of the Royal Geographical Society, October 2022 issue: “In Planktonia, The Nightly Migration of the Ocean’s Smallest Creatures, Erich Hoyt introduces us to some of ocean’s most extraordinary and vital life-forms.

— Cover story and eight-page excerpt in Natural History Magazine, New York, October 2022 issue.

— Eight-page excerpt in Dive Magazine, Winter 2022-23 issue.

— Cover story and six-page excerpt in The Biologist, London, UK, Spring 2023 issue.

— Author interview, Nature Book Guide December issue:

— Podcasts with So You Want To Be a Marine Biologist podcast; Matt Testoni, SeaCreatures podcast; and the Marine Conservation Happy Hour