Diatoms have lacy casesOf material silicaceous,Perforated lids and basesMade to fit like Petri dishes.Nursed on Nature’s hydroponicThey’re prolific and nutritious,Making bouillabase planktonicFor the sustenance of fishes.
- Ralph LewinTaken from ‘The Fertile Sea’, by A.P Orr and S.M Marshall (1969)
This may look like Salvador Dali’s Mae West Lips Sofa, but it is a colourised scanning electron microscope image of a diatom - a tiny single-celled marine creature invisible to the naked eye. Diatoms are a type of algae or phytoplankton that typically measure just 0.002 inches across, and are thought to pre-date the dinosaurs. Oceanographer Dr Paul Hargreaves uses an electron microscope to photograph the creatures, and artist Faye Darling uses digital paint programmes to colourise them.
Red tide in Xiamen, in China’s Fujian Province, April 21, 2007.
Red tides are nutrient-fueled blooms of phytoplankton (often dinoflagellates) that discolor water with their pigments. Several species are known to have toxic effects on marine life and pose a risk to human health through the consumption of exposed shellfish.
Scanning electron micrograph of the phytoplankton (plant plankton) Chrysococcus sculptus, showing a Chrysophyte statocyst (resting stage in lifecycle) taken from a lake affected by the 1980 Mt. St. Helens eruption. Mag: X 34,300.