Little, but a big deal
About 20 percent of the oxygen we breathe comes from photosynthesis by marine diatoms — small single-celled algae that play an immense role in keeping the planet's ecosystem working.
Diatoms help mediate carbon and oxygen cycles, are a foundational component of marine food webs, and they process an incredible amount of silica, which comprises about one-quarter of the earth's crust. [The Air You're Breathing? A Diatom Made That ]
Andrew Alverson, a biologist and diatom expert at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville, is studying diatom genomes to answer such questions as how diatoms evolved, how much of their genome they share with bacteria, and how these microorganisms became so well integrated into the global ecosystem.
What follows are ten of the most engaging images of diatoms from Alverson's research.
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