Science Snap (#21): Diatoms

Originally posted on the EGU blog network

When you start looking at things at a microscopic level, everything starts to look a little alien.  Minerals assemblages can look like the landscapes of far off planets and microbes can look like their inhabitants.  One such type of alien looking microscopic life form are diatoms.

Diatom images showing the variability in their beautiful morphology. Photo credit: Kate Hendry
Diatom images showing the variability in their beautiful morphology. Photo credit: Kate Hendry

Diatoms are type of algae and their colonies generate the strangest of shapes; think of them as nature’s 3D spirographs. Their cell walls are composed of silica and they can be found in many aquatic environments, from the oceans to freshwaters. Diatoms can be used to inform scientists about the environment in which they grew and how this may have been altered due to climate change. But for me, it’s just interesting to see the huge variability in their morphology.

Diatom found on a sample of limestone left in situ in a blue hole in the Bahamas. Photo Credit: KT Cooper
Diatom found on a sample of limestone from a blue hole in the Bahamas. Photo Credit: KT Cooper

 

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About KT Cooper

I’m a carbonate biogeochemist. When I’m not in the Bahamas, I dabble in the world of computer modelling.

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