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The water strider, a common pleuston

Pleuston are the organisms that live in the thin surface layer existing at the air–water interface of a body of water as their habitat.[1] Examples include some cyanobacteria, some gastropods, the ferns Azolla and Salvinia, and the seed plants Lemna, Wolffia, Pistia, Eichhornia crassipes and Hydrocharis. Some fungi and fungi-like protists may be also found.


The term neuston is used either:

  • As a synonym for pleuston: hence, the collective term for the organisms that float on the top of water (epineuston) or live just below the surface (hyponeuston).
  • For that subset of floating organisms that are microscopic[2] or those that rely on surface tension to float.[3] This is in comparison with the term pleuston, which is then its superset, including those organisms that float by buoyancy or are macroscopic.

Neustons, broadly defined, are made up of some species of fish (see flying fish[4]), beetles (see whirligig beetle), protozoans, bacteria and spiders (see fishing spider and diving bell spider). Springtails in the genera Podura and Sminthurides are almost exclusively neustonic, while Hypogastrura species often aggregate on pond surfaces. Water striders such as Gerris are common examples of insects that support their weight on water's surface tension. By extension, the term may also refer to non-organismal floating aggregations (see, e.g., Great Pacific Garbage Patch).

Distinction versus other aquatic life[edit]

Plankton (organisms that float or drift within the water) are distinguished from nekton (organisms that swim, powerfully, in the water), and benthos (organisms on the bottom of a body of water).

Environmental factors[edit]

There are different environmental factors such as flood pulses and droughts, and these environmental factors affect species such as pleuston, whether the effects lead to more or less variations in the species. When flood pulses (an abiotic factor) occur, connectivity between different aquatic environments occur. Species that live in environments with irregular flood patterns tend to have more variations, or even decrease species and variations; similar idea to what happens when droughts occur.[5]


  1. ^ "Pleuston". Merriam-Webster Online.
  2. ^ P. S. Liss, W. George N. Slinn (1983-07-31). Air-sea exchange of gases and particles. pp. 148. ISBN 978-90-277-1610-1.
  3. ^ James H. Thorp, Alan P. Covich (2001-04-23). Ecology and classification of North American freshwater invertebrates. p. 34. ISBN 978-0-12-690647-9.
  4. ^ "The Sea Surface and Global Change by P. S. Liss, Robert A. Duce". Retrieved 9 June 2018.
  5. ^ Conceição, E. de O. da, Higuti, J., Campos, R. de, & Martens, K. (2018). Effects of flood pulses on persistence and variability of pleuston communities in a tropical floodplain lake. Hydrobiologia, 807(1), 175–188.

External links[edit]