IMAGES: Diatoms on Demand

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Science  07 Feb 2003:
Vol. 299, Issue 5608, pp. 795
DOI: 10.1126/science.299.5608.795d

Diatoms, such as this Cymbella cistula from Washington state, live within a pair of interlocking silica boxes as delicate and ornate as fine crystal. Diatoms are more than just photogenic; the abundance of particular species in a water sample can indicate nutrient levels and other environmental conditions. To help taxonomists identify specimens, phycologist Donald Charles and colleagues at the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia created this huge gallery of American freshwater species. You can browse images of more than 50 genera from 27 drainages.

Researchers using diatoms to detect changes in water chemistry or temperature can find plenty of ecological and environmental data at this academy site. The database records the number of individuals of each species in surface-water and sediment-core samples from more than 700 lakes and ponds in North America. The data, collected over the last 20 years, come from unpublished work by academy researchers and from the literature.

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