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Image of 50 species of diatoms courtesy of Randolph Femmer,
50 species of Bacillariophyta (Diatoms) [Photo: Randolph Femmer,]

This photo depicts the silicated frustules, or skeletons, of diatoms.  The frustules exhibit both bilateral and radial symmetry.


 Phylum: Bacillariophyta (Diatoms)**

The phylum Bacillariophyta represent a large group of unicellular algae known as diatoms that are found in marine, freshwater, terrestrial and aerial ecosystems. The Gulf of Mexico currently has 1000 documented species of diatoms.

Image of diatom assemblage, courtesy of David G. Mann, 2008, Tree of Life
Diatom assemblage [Image: David G. Mann, 2008, Tree of Life]

Diatoms are the most common type of marine phytoplankton and represent the base of the food web for many organisms in the Gulf of Mexico.  Diatoms are ordinarily microscopic, but can reach lengths of up to 2 mm. Diatoms are traditionally grouped based on the pattern of their structural organization.  The three main groups are pennates, araphid (without raphe) pennates, and centric.  The raphe is a slit which extends along the longitudinal axis of pennate diatoms. Diatoms reproduce by simple cell division (mitosis) and sexually.

(Information from Gulf of Mexico Origin, Waters, and Biota: Volume 1, Biodiversity, Texas A&M University Press 2009).

**Note: Due to lack of data, Gulf of Mexico Diatoms are not included in the associated mapping application.


Image of 5 species of diatoms, courtesy of Randolph Femmer,
5 species of Bacillariophyta (Diatoms) [Photo: Randolph Femmer,]

Diatom frustrules are made of very hard silicate material that is easily preserved, thus, the fossil record of diatoms is extensive.

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