Diatoms are interesting creatures. They can be found most easily in home aquariums, especially in salt water tanks. This image came from a scraping of the glass inside my salt water aquarium. They are numerous in salt water tanks because of the tank water's high calcium and silica content, the hardness and the high alkalinity. This species usually looks like a carpet of rust-colored algae. Their exterior cases consist mostly of silica which they extract from the water in enormous quantities. They are, in a sense, micro computer chips, and are so intricately designed that they are used to test the optics in high end optical instruments.

Diatoms convert the products of photosynthesis to oils and fats, unlike plants which convert them to carbohydrates. Diatoms are perfectly symmetrical. The ones shown in the image are Pennates (Class: Pennales) because they are symmetrical left/right - perfectly. Although most of the Diatoms in the image are "boat shaped" ovals, I've circled a few that are rectanglar and "hour glass" shaped. There are approximately 10,000 species of Diatoms, and the fossil record shows that some lived more than 66 million years ago.

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