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Archive for September 22nd, 2013

Tiny World

Gephyrocapsa oceanicaI am always interested in seeing what the extreme magnification of an electron microscope reveals about our world.  It’s fascinating to see how tiny matter is built, often having a beautiful architectural grace in their patterns and constructions.  For example, this fellow to the left is a phytoplankton, a microscopic organism that lives in a watery environment, in both fresh and salt water.  Basically, a form of algae that is at the base of the marine food web.

This particular phytoplankton is a coccolithophore, which denotes that it is covered in the calcium plates (called coccoliths) that you see on its surface.  There are over 30 plates on each of these organisms and when they die these plates break free and, in great concentrations, form a deep and opaque turquoise bloom in the sea water.

These little guys hold an important position in the environment, one which I am still struggling to fully understand.  There’s an article on NASA’s Earth Observatory site that better describes their nature and place in the world.  For me, I am simply intrigued by the shapes and patterns of this creature.

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