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Christmas Gift Guide

Diatom mandalas

Microscope slides

Fossil diatoms

Prize Medal Paris 1867 Diatomaceae

Diatoms from Bolinas Lagoon

Beautiful diatoms

Pretty science

Arachnoidiscus diatoms

Diatoms, some of our planet's smallest organisms, are a major group of algae with nearly 100,000 different species in existence. Many times these unicellular organisms have been photographed for scientific study and museum curation. The California Academy of Sciences Diatom Collection contains more than 50,000 samples and 125,000 microscope slides.

But around the world, hobbyists, using science as art, have arranged and colored these tiny lifeforms into mandala-like works of art. The microscopic creations, published recently by the academy on its Flickr page, are incredibly small. The inset scale bar here shows 100 µm, about 0.00394 inches.

For perspective, 181 µm is the maximum width of a strand of human hair, and 760 µm is the thickness of a standard credit card.

This photograph containing diatoms was collected in Russia and arranged on a microscope slide in 1952 by A.L. Brigger.

Note that the colors in these slides are not representative of living diatoms.
Caption by / Photo by California Academy of Sciences and Sara Mansfield
Photograph of diatoms arranged on a microscope slide by W.M. Grant.

Source: The California Academy of Sciences Flickr page
Caption by / Photo by California Academy of Sciences and Sara Mansfield
This photograph of fossil diatoms collected in Point Reyes National Seashore in Marin County, California, was arranged on a microscope slide in 1968 by A.L. Brigger.

Though most live in open water, diatoms can be found in oceans, freshwater, soils and on in other damp conditions. Diatoms are estimated to contribute up to 45 percent of the total oceanic production of organic compounds from atmospheric carbon dioxide through photosynthesis.

Source: The California Academy of Sciences Flickr page
Caption by / Photo by California Academy of Sciences and Sara Mansfield
Here, we see a photograph of diatoms arranged on a microscope slide labeled "Prize Medal Paris 1867 Diatomaceae."

Source: The California Academy of Sciences Flickr page
Caption by / Photo by California Academy of Sciences and Sara Mansfield
This photograph is of Arachnoidiscus diatoms collected in the Bolinas Lagoon in Marin County, California and arranged on a microscope slide by R.F. Behan.

Source: The California Academy of Sciences Flickr page
Caption by / Photo by California Academy of Sciences and Sara Mansfield
Photograph of diatoms arranged on a microscope slide by W.M. Grant from the California Academy of Sciences Diatom Collection.

Source: The California Academy of Sciences Flickr page
Caption by / Photo by California Academy of Sciences and Sara Mansfield
Arranged diatoms on microscope slides in the California Academy of Sciences Diatom Collection which have been arranged on a microscope slide by W.M. Grant.

Source: The California Academy of Sciences Flickr page
Caption by / Photo by California Academy of Sciences and Sara Mansfield
Photograph of Arachnoidiscus diatoms collected in the Bolinas Lagoon in Marin County, California and arranged on a microscope slide by R.F. Behan.

Source: The California Academy of Sciences Flickr page
Caption by / Photo by California Academy of Sciences and Sara Mansfield
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