The Academy’s Diatom Herbarium is one of the two largest such collections in the world; the other is at the Natural History Museum, London. The Academy’s collection is a primary source of taxonomic and ecological information and includes 220,000 slides, of which 5,000 are types.
Diatoms are microscopic organisms — tiny plants — with elaborate glass shells. They are found anywhere where there is at least one drop of water, and they are essential for life. Diatoms living just in the oceans are responsible for producing about a quarter of the world’s oxygen, which all living things need to survive.
The online database of the Diatom Herbarium includes 63,000 diatom slides and 12,000 samples. The herbarium has a long history, with many specimens dating from before the 1800s.
In this digital picture story the Academy contributed to Google Arts & Culture, you can see the beautiful glass diatom houses of many sizes and shapes, with spines, pores and slits, but always made of two pieces (called valves).
Here are a few of the images. Click on Diatoms of the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University to see more.
By Carolyn Belardo
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