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Small Things Considered: Ehux - The Little Eukaryote with a Big History

There is an organism out there that is smaller than you, older than you, and that has a house that’s probably fancier than yours. Meet Emiliania huxleyi, or Ehux. Ehux is a miniscule coccolithophore, a beautiful single-celled alga that doesn’t get enough attention in the world of microbiology. The tendency of biologists to ignore this phytoplankton species belies its significance. In fact, Ehux has a penchant for being flashy—it has phenomenally beautiful plates covering it, known as coccoliths, intricate composites of calcium carbonate that when viewed under the microscope rival the most wondrous sculptures made by man. And they exist in huge quantities. The White Cliffs of Dover wouldn’t be so large, or for that matter, white, if it weren’t for this tiny architect. Ehux makes blooms near the surface of the oceans that are so big they can be seen from space! And it has its own web page.

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