The Eccentricity of Chalk-Making Bugs
Microscopic photosynthetic algae in the ocean, coccolithophores, have single-handedly generated the km of chalk evident at the earth’s surface and conducive to champagne production. These coccolithophores take the dissolved ions in seawater and turn them in to intricate calcium-carbonate platelets intracellularly before extrusion onto the cell surface. This chalk has acted as a key buffer of the acidity of the ocean for the last 200 million years, such that these algae are a crucial component of the carbon cycle, setting our atmospheric composition. But what controls how much chalk gets made? Are these algae (and their associated buffering) in peril in future acidified oceans? This talk will explore these questions as well as the recent intriguing discovery that the evolutionary tempo of these algae resonates with the cyclic motion of the earth around the sun.