J. Rudy Lewis Muses on the Contribution and Melancholy of Diatoms

diatom1Underwater, these weirdly lovely things called diatoms are everywhere. It is estimated that 20 to 25 percent of all organic carbon fixation–that is, the transformation of carbon dioxide and water into sugars, using light energy–is carried out by diatoms. They contain chlorophyll, so they photosynthesize and glow as they do it.

They are beautiful, mysterious, luminous, tiny. The worlds they inhabit, and they themselves seem to exist in a parallel, spiritual-science fiction-ish reality.

They get eaten a lot. Almost every underwater critter eats them–if they’re not getting poisoned by marine pollution.

To me, there’s a melancholy about the diatom and its world. Unseen, as important as air–beautiful and always dying.