Friday, January 04, 2008


Coccolithophores are among the smallest of the phytoplankton. This species is called Emiliania huxleyi and it's covered with calcite disks. It's common worldwide but does well in cool waters as long as the nutrients are plentiful. They live in the photic zone of the oceans using photosynthesis to multiply. They can explode into enormous blooms that can cover more than 100,000 square kilometres of ocean surface. The ocean takes on a milky turquoise colour which is reflected from the calcium carbonate of the shells scattering sunlight. Sailors used to call this colour "fairy glow" and it's easily seen in satellite photographs.

This MODIS image of a coccolithophore bloom of the coast of Brittany, France was taken on June 15, 2004.
This particular coccolithophore, when it blooms consumes, dissolved carbon dioxide, nitrate, and phosphate while producing oxygen, ammonia, dimethyl sulfide. They incorporate huge quantities of carbon which, as they die, falls to the bottom of the ocean floor and is buried.
A bloom like the one above can contain billions of cells per litre of water and generate tens of thousands of metric tons of calcium carbonate in the upper layer of the bloom.
Of course anything trapped under this bloom that requires photosynthesis is in trouble as the water becomes darker with the amount of reduced light penetrating through the layers of coccolithopores. As wind and tides change, the bloom is dispersed and it begins again in another part of the ocean.


Lord Sedgwick said...

How very Orlando! (Boom, boom! Bloom Bloom!)

Brian Hughes said...

That's not off the coast of Brittany...that's off the toe of Cornwall. Very reminiscent, in fact, of the smell lines emanating from the toe of Sedgwick's sock...especially after one of his extremely cheesy puns.

Lord Sedgwick said...

Brie, Roquefort, Pol le Veq, Port Salut, Savoy Aire, Saint Paulin, Carrier de lest, Bres Bleu, Bruson, Venezuelan Beaver Cheese, Camenbert?

I don't care how fcuking cheesy punny it is, I shall have my wicked whey with you, you demented hard Wyred Lancastrian Kurd.

JahTeh said...

Still not quite sober Your Lordship and stop soliciting young innocent Lancashire lads on my blog.

It's between the two and the only reason I didn't put up the image of a bloom along the Cornish coast was because I wasn't sure whether it was coccolithospore or soap scum from the annual holiday bathing of the grotty British public. Yourself excepted, I'm sure you bath three times a year whether you need to or not.

Lord Sedgwick said...

Sober! How dare you impute such things, you impolitic wench! Wash your mouth out with carbolic - or the aforementioned soap scum from the annual holiday bathing of the grotty British public, which ever comes first and can remove fifty layers of Public Works Department Brunswick Green paint in a trice.

Hughes ... 'young' 'innocent' ??!! 'scuse me while I have yet another of my myocardial infarctions, you silly twisted Pollyanna.

JahTeh said...

Sorry M'Lord I take that sobriety comment back, you're obviously on crack. Of course our dear Fleetwood is innocent, just look at that sweet schoolboy pic although looking at it closely the lad appears to be a bit 'molly the monk' as it were, actually 6 sheets to the wind by the third viewing.

Brian Hughes said...

"...the annual holiday bathing of the grotty British public."

Make that the great 'southern' British public. Oop North it's "wunce a deckeed in t'owd tin bath afore t' coal fire.

Middle Child said...

Amazing stuff Jahteh.