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Emiliania huxleyi
Emiliania huxleyi
Scientific classification
Domain: Eukaryota
Kingdom: Chromalveolata
Phylum: Haptophyta
Class: Prymnesiophyceae
Order: Isochrysidales
Family: Noelaerhabdaceae
Genus: Emiliania
Species: E. huxleyi
Binomial name
Emiliania huxleyi
(Lohm.) Hay and Mohler

Emiliania huxleyi, often abbreviated to simply "EHUX", is a species of coccolithophore with a global distribution from the tropics to subarctic waters. It is studied for the extensive blooms it forms in nutrient depleted waters after the reformation of the summer thermocline. Like other coccolithophores, E. huxleyi is a single-celled phytoplankton covered with uniquely ornamented calcite disks, coccoliths (also informally known as liths or scales). Individual coccoliths are abundant in marine sediments although complete coccospheres are more unusual. In the case of E. huxleyi, not only the shell, but also the soft part of the organism may be recorded in sediments. It 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.

Landsat image from 24th July 1999 of an Emiliania huxleyi bloom

Named after Thomas Huxley and Cesare Emiliani, it is the most numerically abundant and widespread coccolithophore species. Its coccoliths are transparent and commonly colourless, but they are formed of calcite which refracts light very efficiently in the water column. This, and the high concentrations caused by continual shedding of their coccoliths makes E. huxleyi blooms easily visible from space. Satellite images show that blooms can cover large areas (possibly >100,000 square kilometers), with complementary shipboard measurements indicating that E. huxleyi is by far the dominant phytoplankton species under these conditions.

This species has been the inspiration for James Lovelock's Gaia hypothesis which claims that living organisms somehow may be able to self regulate their own conditions of chemistry and climate at a state favourable for life.

See also

External links


  • Amouroux, D.; P. S. Liss, E. Tessier, M. Hamren-Larsson, O. F. X. Donard (2001). "Role of oceans as biogenic sources of selenium". Earth and Planetary Science Letters 189 (3-4): 277-283.  
  • Araie, H.; T. Obata, Y. Shiraiwa (2003). "Metabolism of selenium in a coccolithophorid, Emiliania Huxleyi". J Plant Res 116: 119.  
  • Boisson, F.; CS Karez, M. Henry, M. Romeo, M. Gnassia-Barelli (1996). "Ultrastructural observations on the marine coccolithophorid Cricosphaera elongata cultured in the presence of selenium or cadmium". Bulletin de l'Institut océanographique(Monaco): 239-247.  
  • Dambara, A.; Y. Shiraiwa (1999). "Requirement of selenium for the growth and selection of adequate culture media in a marine coccolithophorid, Emiliania huxleyi.". Bulletin of the Society of Sea Water Science, Japan 53 (6): 476-484.  
  • Danbara, A.; Y. Shiraiwa (2007). "The requirement of selenium for the growth of marine coccolithophorids, Emiliania huxleyi, Gephyrocapsa oceanica and Helladosphaera sp. (Prymnesiophyceae)". Plant and Cell Physiology 40 (7): 762-766.  
  • Doblin, M. A.; S. I. Blackburn, G. M. Hallegraeff (1999). "Growth and biomass stimulation of the toxic dinoflagellate Gymnodinium catenatum (Graham) by dissolved organic substances". Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology 236 (1): 33-47.  
  • Fabry, V. J. (2003). "Calcium carbonate production by coccolithophorid algae in long-term carbon dioxide sequestration". California State University San Marcos (US).  
  • Norici, A.; R. Hell, M. Giordano (2005). "Sulfur and primary production in aquatic environments: an ecological perspective". Photosynthesis Research 86 (3): 409-417.  
  • Obata, T.; Y. Shiraiwa (2005). "A novel eukaryotic selenoprotein in the haptophyte alga Emiliania huxleyi". Journal of Biological Chemistry 280 (18): 18462.  
  • Obata, T.; H. Araie, Y. Shiraiwa (2003). "Kinetic studies on bioconcentration mechanism of selenium by a coccolithophorid, Emiliania huxleyi". Plant Cell Physiology 44: S43.  
  • Shiraiwa, Y. (2003). "Physiological regulation of carbon fixation in the photosynthesis and calcification of coccolithophorids". Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology, Part B 136 (4): 775-783.  
  • Sorrosa, J. M.; M. Satoh, Y. Shiraiwa (2005). "Low temperature stimulates cell enlargement and intracellular calcification of coccolithophorids". Marine Biotechnology 7 (2): 128-133.  
  • Volkman, J. K.; S. M. Barrerr, S. I. Blackburn, E. L. Sikes (1995). "Alkenones in gephyrocapsa oceanica: implications for studies of paleoclimate". Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta 59 (3): 513-520.  


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