Homage to Diatoms

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Posted on June 19, 2014 in Amazing Facts, Cell Biology, Genetics, Geology, Intelligent Design, Marine Biology, Philosophy of Science

Twenty percent of the air you are breathing came from tiny animals living in crystal cathedrals.

The opening photograph of a diatom on Live Science’s article is stunning.  It must be man-made or machine-made.  Looking so perfect, it is shocking to find out this crystal nano-wonder is a living organism, a diatom.  Diatoms are photosynthetic microbes that are extremely abundant in the oceans and in some fresh water lakes.  Their habitats are extremely diverse, too: some are found in sea ice, others in tropical reefs.

The photo begins an interview with Andrew Alverson (U of Arkansas), an expert on diatoms; it’s accompanied by a photo gallery on Live Science of electron micrographs of various species, all of which seem too good to be real.  Alverson calls diatoms “the most important little organisms that most people have never heard of.”

Diatoms are tiny — five to 10 of them could fit on the head of a pin — but these single-celled algae play an immense role in keeping the planet’s ecosystem working. They’re important mediators of carbon and oxygen cycles, an integral component of marine food webs and the principal cyclers of silica, which constitutes about one-quarter of the Earth’s crust.

Alverson estimates that there are 100,000 species of diatoms—perhaps even double that number.   They are extremely important for the biosphere, creating about 20% of the oxygen we breathe.

The first genome sequences of diatoms are coming to light.  They are bringing surprises to evolutionists:

Diatoms appear to have a highly mosaic genome, with genes originating from many different sources. Most notably, a large fraction of the genes may have been acquired by horizontal gene transfer (HGT) from bacteria. Although genomic data have shown that HGT — the swapping of genes between species that don’t reproduce with one another — is much more common in eukaryotes than once thought, gene transfer between such distant relatives (diatoms and bacteria last shared a common ancestor a few billion years ago) is rare.

This would seem to either scramble genetic evidence for evolution hopelessly, or falsify genetic evolution altogether.  Alverson’s shotgun approach to explanation seems frantic:

It remains to be seen whether some of the same, mostly intrinsic, processes implicated in the diversification of other “hyperdiverse” eukaryotes have also been at play over the course of diatom evolution. Flowering plants and vertebrates, for example, famously experienced serial rounds of whole-genome duplication. Although most of the duplicated genes were almost immediately lost into the dustbin of evolutionary history, some of the duplicates remained, freely evolving independently of their progenitors to acquire new or modified functions. Diatom genomes contain lots of duplicated genes, but whether these originated piecemeal or in large, punctuated bursts is an open question.

Alverson hopes that more genome sequences of diatoms will begin to answer all the questions:

Genomes won’t fill all of the gaps, however. By most estimates, some 90 percent of diatom species have yet to be discovered and named, so even as we begin to unravel the story of diatom diversification, the vast majority of the players will remain anonymous.

Nowhere in the article did Alverson even begin to explain how diatoms create their intricate crystal houses.

Diatoms have fascinated people since they were first seen under the microscope.  In the old Moody Institute of Science film Hidden Treasures, Dr. Irwin Moon likened their beauty and diversity to snowflakes.  How can so many species create so many diverse shapes and patterns?  Their beauty and design far exceeds any need for survival.

If the Creator wanted to make one class of organisms that are not only essential to life on the planet and wonderfully beautiful, and simultaneously impossible to explain by evolution, here’s a good example.  The inability of evolutionists to explain diatoms (8/11/12) makes them a perfect game for creation, a no-hitter for Darwin.  Now go admire the photo gallery.

 

 

One Comment

Aaron7 June 19, 2014

They are absolutely stunning. They look like pieces of art, and to know there are hundreds of thousands of diatoms makes it even more fascinating.

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