Monday, 10 November 2014

Celebrating the tiny things in life

Diatoms from Carleon Cove pool
Most of us don't give much thought to the tiniest things in life, but they are out there, and important to us all!

Meet the diatoms.  These are microscopic single celled algae, defined by having a silica rich cell wall made in two parts. They live in both fresh and salt water, and most photosynthesise, producing energy from sunlight. Diatoms are at the bottom of lots of food chains, and are the ultimate source of energy for many forms of ocean life, and you if you eat fish! A micron is one millionth of a metre (one thousandth of a millimetre), so at 20 microns long they are tiny. However, they can be so numerous that in time their silica rich remains accumulate to form a soft rock type called diatomite, which has many industrial uses.

Examining the catch of diatoms
Trawling for diatoms at Carleon Cove
This miniature world was captured by Kernow Microscopical Society, who recently held a field meeting at Poltesco, utilising our newly renovated barn to set up their equipment. They collected diatoms within the brackish pool at Carleon Cove, formed where the stream meets the shingle beach.

For further fascinating insights into very small things, including a cross section of a moth's tongue, visit the Society's website at http://kernowmicroscopy.webplus.net/

Rachel 

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