Like all coccolithophores, Emiliania huxleyi is covered with uniquely ornamented calcite disks. Emiliania huxleyi lives near the surface of the world's oceans. Being photosynthetic, coccolithophores live in the photic zone. Individual plates of this organism are common in marine sediments although complete specimens are more unusual.
In the case of Emiliania huxleyi, not only the shell, but the soft part of the organism may be recorded in sediments. Emiliania huxleyi produces a group of chemical compounds that are very resistant to decomposition. These chemical compounds, known as alkenones, can be found in marine sediments long after other soft parts of the organisms have decomposed. Alkenones are used by earth scientists as a clue to past sea surface temperatures.
Photo courtesy Dr. Markus Geisen - photographer, and The Natural History Museum.
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