Laura Haynes / Vassar College

World - These Stunning Miniature Sea Creatures Keep the Oceans in Balance

Never underestimate the power of one cell.

That’s how many cells foraminifera—little sea creatures with striking shells—have. But boy can they do a lot with it. They’re the world’s tiniest geochemists, tinkering with the ocean.

These tiny creatures are found everywhere from coasts to the open ocean. But they do more than play the role of geochemists; they can also help us understand our ocean’s past so we can anticipate its future. It’s a fascinating paradox that single-celled protists can help us learn about the oceans, which are infinitely bigger than they are. Plus, they look rad.

Let’s take a tour of foraminifera—dubbed “forams” for short (and definitely easier to pronounce)—around the world, with guidance from experts. Earther talked to Adriane Lam, a postdoctoral fellow in the department of geological sciences and environmental studies at Binghamton University SUNY, and Bärbel Hönisch, a professor at Columbia University’s department of earth and environmental sciences and its Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, and asked them to introduce us to forams and tell us the most interesting things about them.

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