THIERRY BERROD / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY THIERRY BERROD / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY
Rio Tinto diatoms. Light microscopy footage of diatoms in a sample of water from the Rio Tinto river in Spain. Diatoms are a group of photosynthetic, single-celled algae that are part of the plankton at the base of the marine and freshwater food chains. Their characteristic feature is the intricately patterned glass-like cell wall, or frustule. The Rio Tinto river flows through an area rich in minerals, and contains extremophile bacteria that feed on iron and sulphide minerals, creating an acidic environment. Over many kilometres this river has a pH of 2 and the reddish tint for which it is named. Despite the toxic environment, this river contains many microbe and algae species that are adapted to survive in such conditions.
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