Wednesday, June 3, 2009

On top they're beautiful...

Phytoplankton -- such as this colony of chaetoceros socialis -- naturally give off fluorescent light as they dissipate excess solar energy that they cannot consume through photosynthesis. Credit: Maria Vernet, Scripps Institution of Oceanography

Single-celled phytoplankton fuel nearly all ocean ecosystems, serving as the most basic food source for marine animals from zooplankton to fish to shellfish. In fact, phytoplankton account for half of all photosynthetic activity on Earth. The health of these marine plants affects commercial fisheries, the amount of carbon dioxide the ocean can absorb, and how the ocean responds to climate change.

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