Friday, July 19, 2013

Calcium Carbonate by the Seashore

We humans have been collecting sea shells for a very long time.  They have been used for tools, art, adornment, musical instruments, currency, religious and spiritual practices, and mixed with dry fish they make tasty chicken feed. Sea shells, protective outer layers made by a host of sea creatures, are composed of calcium carbonate, found in our homes as wall board and antacid tablets.

The White Cliffs of Dover
Aside from feeding chickens and relieving gas pains, calcium carbonate is utilized by a great number of living creatures. The White Cliffs of Dover, for example, are not only lovely, they made a great barrier against European hordes.  The Brits are quite fond of them, but the Coccolithophores that made them hardly get any credit. The cliffs are the remains of planktonic algae, creatures of microscopic size that excrete and live within a hard matrix of calcium.

There is a great abundance of shells, from microscopic to hundreds of pounds, lining many parts of the ocean bottom.  The diversity, texture and patterns of shells is simply astonishing. There are many exotic examples one could choose to illustrate just how aesthetically pleasing they can be – true works of art. In my estimation, however, the simplest of shell is a wonder of nature.  If you don’t believe me just take a few minutes to really look at one.

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