COOL IMAGES: Plants in Glass Houses

Science  07 May 1999:
Vol. 284, Issue 5416, pp. 871a
DOI: 10.1126/science.284.5416.871a

If they were 10,000 times bigger, there's no telling how one might make use of diatoms, the shapes of which bring to mind everything from hubcaps to baskets and combs. Their diversity belies a common theme: The tens of thousands of species of these unicellular algae all have a two-piece silica cell wall, like a pillbox with a cover. Diatoms are more than a curiosity. Scientists use them as indicators of water quality, for instance, and study their buried remains for clues to past climate. These scanning electron micrographs of freshwater diatoms (see and come from a Web gallery that links to taxonomic databases, diatom catalogs, and many other algae sites. At another diatom site in Holland, stunning optical microscopy photos elevate diatoms from tiny translucent plants to art form.

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