The smallest skeletons in the marine world observed in 3-D by synchrotron techniques

phys.org | 2/15/2019 | Staff
samtetley (Posted by) Level 3
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Coccolithophores are microscopic marine algae that use carbon dioxide to grow, and release carbon dioxide when they create their miniature calcite shells. These tiny, abundant planktonic microorganisms could therefore be seriously impacted by current increasing carbon dioxide emissions. Scientists from the CNRS, Le Mans Université, Sorbonne Université, Aix-Marseille Université and the ESRF, the European Synchrotron, have revealed the nano-level 3-D structure of their calcite shells, providing new perspectives for assessment of the role of these tiny microorganisms in the global carbon cycle. A study published in Nature Communications shows new correlations between their mass and the size of the organic template around which the calcite nucleation and growth take place.

You have probably never heard of them, but you may have inadvertently noticed coccolithophores in satellite images of the sea when a magnificent milky-turquoise coloured patch shows up in surface waters indicating that trillions of these single-celled calcified phytoplankton are present.

One-third - Carbon - Dioxide - Atmosphere - Result

About one-third of the carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere as a result of human activity is absorbed by the oceans, where it reacts chemically and makes the water more acidic. This, in turn, makes it difficult for certain calcifying marine organisms, such as sea stars, sea urchins, corals, and coccolithophores to build their shells or skeletons.

Coccolithophores, single-celled organisms much smaller than the pixels on your computer screen, are active players in the carbon cycle. They live in surface layers of the sea, where they use light to photosynthesize, fixing CO2 into organic matter leading to a decrease in dissolved CO2 in the ocean. Unlike other photosynthetic phytoplankton, coccolithophores produce calcite (i.e. CaCO3) in the form of minute platelets called "coccoliths." Coccolithophore calcification uses bicarbonate (HCO3) from seawater and releases CO2. When coccolithophore cells die, coccoliths and associated organic matter slowly sink to the seabed, thus contributing to the storage of...
(Excerpt) Read more at: phys.org
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