This organism, shown here in a scanning electron microscope image at 10,000x magnification, is a diatom, a type of phytoplankton. There are approximately 10,000 species of diatoms living in oceans, lakes, and rivers, where the photosynthetic creatures produce almost one-quarter of Earth’s O2. And even in death, the algae are useful: Their silica-based mortal remains form diatomaceous earth, a crucial industrial filtration medium. This image was an entry in microscopy instrument maker JEOL’s image contest.

Credit: José R. Almodóvar Rivera/ Microscopy Center at the University of Puerto Rico, Mayagüez/JEOL

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