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Diatoms under ice

Shells of Their Former Cells

In July 2011, scientists studying the Arctic  discovered a massive phytoplankton bloom under meter-thick ice, where they thought there wouldn’t be enough light for the plants to grow. WHOI biologist Sam Laney photographed and identified the phytoplankton, which the science team concluded were able to survive because meltwater pools on the ice acted as lenses, focusing sunlight into the water below. These unhealthy, mostly-empty diatom shells, Laney said, probably occurred late in the bloom, when the seawater's nutrients had been depleted. The cruise, led by Kevin Arrigo of Stanford University, was part of the NASA-funded ICESCAPE program

(Photo courtesy of Sam Laney, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution)


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