EDUCATION: Gems of the Ocean

Science  27 May 2005:
Vol. 308, Issue 5726, pp. 1233b
DOI: 10.1126/science.308.5726.1233b

Individual cells of the protist Emiliania huxleyi are so tiny that researchers can barely see them with a light microscope. But E. huxleyi, or “Ehux” for short, has a disproportionately large impact on the planet. This Ehux site from oceanographer Toby Tyrrell of Southampton University in the United Kingdom offers backgrounders by experts on the cells' anatomy, reproduction, ecology, and other topics. The creatures' calcium carbonate armor scatters light and can color large swaths of the ocean turquoise. By making the surface water more reflective, Ehux reduces the amount of light penetrating into the ocean and cools the lower layers. Although the cells are photo-synthetic, they might worsen global warming, the site explains, because their changes to water chemistry boost the amount of dissolved carbon dioxide. The site also includes a gallery of delicate Ehux shells, a bibliography, and a link to NASA satellite photos of Ehux blooms.

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