Saturday, October 17, 2009

Emily, a nickname for Emiliania huxleyi

Emily is a short term and nickname that some microbiologists like to use to refer to the coccolithophore Emiliania huxleyi, a species from a group of single-celled marine planktonic algae.

Geologists and paleoceanographers have developed much interest in Emily and related species, since Emiliania huxleyi algae produce long-chain alkenones, of which—when found in marine sediments —the ratio of molecules with different degree of unsaturation (different number of double bonds) can be used to extrapolate to past sea surface temperatures [1].

Keywords: biochemistry, paleoceanography, coccolithophores, molecular structure of unsaturated alkanones, ketones

[1] Susan M. Gaines, Geoffrey Eglington, and Jürgen Rullkötter: Echoes of LifeWhat Fossil Molecules Reveal about Earth History. Oxford University Press, New York, 2009; see, for example, page 111 and 114.

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