Under the sea


Diatoms are related to plants. They are actually algae that look rather like fancy silicate (glass) pillboxes with lots of little grooves and holes. There are a lot of diatoms in phytoplankton, which is made up of tiny, floating organisms in aquatic environments that use the energy of sunlight to make their own food by photosynthesis.

For reproduction, usually the diatom cell divides and then the shell separates and each half secretes a slightly smaller shell to fit inside the old one. Each time this happens the organism gets smaller and smaller. Then sometimes there is sexual reproduction that produces full sized cells again.

There are more than 8,000 known species of diatoms, mostly in fresh water or shallow ocean water. The stuff called diatomaceous earth that you can find in garden stores and as water filters is the fossil remains of diatoms.

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