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What is Diatom?

An Introduction to Diatom

The members of the division bacillariophyte are known as diatoms. Diatoms mean to cut into two. The name of these organisms is based on the cell wall of the diatoms that is divided into two parts. Diatoms belong to the kingdom Protista.


The Salient Features of the Protista Kingdom:

  • The living organisms included in this kingdom are as follows: dinoflagellates, diatoms, euglenoids, slime molds, and protozoans.

  • All the organisms included in this kingdom are unicellular and eukaryotic in nature.

  • The mode of nutrition in protists is of different types:

  1. Holophytic or Photosynthesis

These organisms can synthesize their own food. The synthesis of food can be done by the method of photosynthesis.

  1. Holozoic Mode of Nutrition

These organisms possess a similar mode of nutrition as that of animals. In these organisms, the food is first ingested and then digested.

  1. Absorptive

Some protists obtain their food from dead organic matter substances. These types of protists secrete some extracellular enzymes. These enzymes convert complex or compound substances into simple substances. These produced simple substances are easily absorbed by the body surface of the protists.

  1. Mixotrophic Mode of Nutrition

Some protists have different types of modes of nutrition.


Mode of Reproduction

Protists reproduces both by sexual and asexual means of reproduction. Types of reproduction in protists are discussed below:

  1. Asexual Reproduction

This is the most common method of reproduction in the members of the protist kingdom. Asexual reproduction takes place in favorable conditions. It is of the following types:

Binary Fission: 

In this type of reproduction two types of reproduction two daughter cells are formed by the division of one mother cell. After this step, each daughter cell formed in binary fission grows in size to form a normal organism.

Spore Formation:

Some of the protists possess a special structure that is known as sporangia. Production of Spores takes place in this sporangia. The bursting of sporangia takes place after some time and all the spores become free (released into the environment). These spores form a new cell after germination.

  1. Sexual Reproduction

In the sexual reproduction process two gametes (haploid in nature) fuse to form a zygote (diploid in nature). This fusion is known as syngamy. This fusion can be divided into three types.


The isogamy mode of fusion is the easiest way of sexual reproduction. In isogamy, the fusing gametes are morphologically similar but physiologically they may be similar or dissimilar.


The fusing gametes are morphologically dissimilar but physiologically they may be similar or dissimilar.


This type of fusion is developed from anisogamy. In this type of fusion, the male gamete is small and motile while the female gamete is large and non-motile. This female gamete is known as an egg. In it, the formation of male and female gametes takes place in sex organs.

Diatom is composed of two words Di and atoms that indicate two halves. The body of the diatom is divided into two halves. The scientific name of the diatom is  Chrysophyta. The word Chrysophyta means golden color. Therefore, diatoms are golden in color. Diatoms are also known as golden algae. The cell structure of diatoms is unicellular. These organisms are eukaryotic in nature. They have the holophytic mode of nutrition because they possess chloroplast.


Division of Diatoms- Chrysophyta or Bacillariophyta.

Class- Bacillariophyceae


Diatoms Under Microscope

Diatoms under a microscope can be easily visible. These organisms are not easily visible by the naked eye, thus need to view the diatoms under the microscope. Diatoms under the microscope make very interesting specimens. They have complex patterns on their surface with very fine punctures. Fine pores in the frustules of some of the animals are used to measure the resolving power of a microscope lens.


General Characteristics of Diatoms


Diatom is generally found in both freshwater and marine water.


The Shell of Diatom:

Diatoms have silica in their shell wall. Their cell wall is called a shell or frustule. Diatoma has overlapping shell walls. The color of the shell of the diatoms is generally transparent. The cell wall of these organisms is generally composed of cellulose. In this cellulosic cell wall, the silica particles are embedded in many places. Due to this reason, the cell wall appears to be made up of silica. 


Nucleus of the Diatom:

Diploid nucleus is present in the diatom. 


Pigments Present in the Diatoms:

The cell wall of diatoms consists of chloroplasts. In the chloroplast of the diatoms, the pigments are present. These pigments are chlorophyll a, chlorophyll c, and xanthophyll. This xanthophyll is also known as fucoxanthin. Due to these pigments diatoms appear golden in color. 


Movement of the Diatoms:

Diatoms are immotile, because of the absence of flagella in them. They generally float on the surface of the water with the help of low molecular weight stored fats. The movement of some diatoms is done with the help of the slimy secretion. This slimy secretion is an oily material excreted by the diatoms. This provides the lubrication for the movement of the diatoms. 


Mode of Nutrition in Diatoms:

The diatoms are autotrophic in nature. The form of stored food in the diatoms are leucosin (chrysolaminarin) and fats (oils).  


The Shape of Diatoms:

The diatoms found in nature are of two types. One is round in shape and the other is elongated. On the basis of shape, diatoms can be classified into two types. These types are discussed below:


Types of Diatoms

  1. Pennate Diatoms.

  2. Centric Diatoms

Let us discuss these two forms one by one.

Pennate Diatoms:

These types of diatoms are elongated in shape. These diatoms can be divided bilaterally. Therefore, they have bilateral symmetry. Pennate diatoms are motile in nature. They move by gliding movement.

Centric Diatoms:

These types of diatoms are round-circular in shape. They possess radial symmetry. These forms of diatoms are non-motile in nature.


Reproduction in Diatoms

The diatoms reproduce both by sexual and asexual means. Diatoms mainly reproduce by the asexual mode of reproduction, by binary fission. Sexual reproduction is very rare in them. Sexually they reproduce by the gametic meiosis. The zygote formed during sexual reproduction is called auxospore. Auxospore is a asexual structure. When the diatoms reproduce by asexual means, their size decrease because of silica. To overcome this problem, they reproduce by the sexual mode of reproduction.


Use of Diatoms

  • Soundproofing

  • Filtration of oils and syrups

  • Stone polishing

  • As a heat insulator in steam boilers. They are used as thermostats because the kieselguhr is a bad conductor of electricity.

  • Diatoms are used as toothpaste.

  • Some diatoms are used in making skin medicines.

  • Diatoms are used in the manufacturing of certain medicines.

  • Diatoms are used as an insecticide, as they dry them by absorbing oil. 

Did You Know That?

  • The cell wall of the diatoms has silica in very large quantities. Due to this reason, their cell wall is hard. The cell wall does not get destroyed after their death so, at the bottom of the sea, very huge rocks of dead diatoms are formed which are known as diatomite or diatomaceous earth or kieselguhr.

  • Diatoms are the chief producers in the ocean.

  • Diatoms are known as golden algae or jewels of the sea.

How to Master the Concept of Diatom Quickly?

There are various methods that help grasp all concepts of Diatoms, their Features, Characteristics, Types, Reproduction and Uses as well. Students can retain the basic concepts of diatoms for a long time with the help of these simple hacks we're going to suggest here. Whether for learning the concepts of diatom for competitive exams, for surprise tests or for exams, students only need to follow some guidelines to make it a quick affair. 


Students often use simple methods like teaching the same concepts that they want to learn, to others; taking regular intervals in between continuous study sessions or even by making important notes of the same concepts themselves to learn the concept faster, easier and to retain the same concept for a long time.


There are multiple assignments students need to complete which makes it difficult to master all the topics they complete in a particular time. So these easy tips will definitely lower their burden and help them learn faster.

  • Note Down All the Queries - Don't forget to write down all the doubts and queries in any particular concept while studying diatom as it helps in solving the same queries and doubts later. Students can also ask their teachers and mentors to clear the noted queries which strengthen the basic concepts of each and every subject.  

  • Highlight the Key Information - While studying the concepts Diatoms, its Features, Characteristics, Types, Reproduction and Uses always highlight the key information with the help of a highlighter or any other tool to make it more clear and visible. Highlighting the key information always attracts students attention so they never miss out on the key concepts. 

  • Learning the Same Information in Different Ways - It is important to learn the concepts of diatoms in different ways, students can break down the concepts and revise them regularly or alternatively in their own ways to make them simple and understandable.

  • Cover Multiple Subjects Every Day - Students need to cover multiple concepts of diatoms everyday like its Features, Characteristics, Types, Reproduction and Uses as getting stuck on one particular concept can waste their time and in the end, they can't cover all the concepts in a fixed period of time.

  • Revise the Concepts at Regular Intervals - Revising the concepts of diatoms at regular intervals is not only necessary to catch it faster but also helps students remember it for the longest possible period. There are several studies that reveal that revising concepts at regular intervals provides a better understanding of the same.    

  • Simplify Difficult Terms in their Own Way - To break down all concepts of diatoms into smaller parts not only simplifies the difficult concepts but also improves the reasoning skills of students as well. A short table, chart or process explaining key concepts is a better way to break down difficult terms.  

  • Practice the Process not the Result - While learning the important concepts of diatoms it is necessary to focus on the process and not the outcome as students can easily forget the concepts if they focus only on the outcome. In order to hold the concepts and memorize them for long, it is important to stick with the process.

  • Keep Practicing and Testing Yourself - Students need to practise all concepts of diatoms and keep giving tests in a smaller span of time to know where they stand. It could be one unit test or the whole concept test depending on students' learning capability. But it is important to test yourself and keep improving and learning from mistakes.   

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FAQs on Diatom

1. What are the characteristics of Diatoms?

  • Diatoms have silica in their shell wall. Their cell wall is called a shell or frustule. The color of the shell of the diatoms is generally transparent.

  • Diatoms can be found in both freshwater and marine environments.

  • The shell wall of diatoms contains silica. Shell or frustule is the name for their cell wall. The shell walls of diatoms overlap. The shells of diatoms are normally translucent in colour. Cellulose makes up most of these species' cell walls. The silica particles are found in several places in this cellulosic cell wall. As a consequence, the cell wall tends to be made of silica. 

  • The diatom comprises a diploid nucleus. 

  • Chloroplasts make up the cell wall of diatoms. The pigments are found in the chloroplast of diatoms. Chlorophyll a, chlorophyll c, and xanthophyll are the pigments in the issue. Fucoxanthin is another name for this xanthophyll. Diatoms have a golden colour due to these pigments.

  • Diatoms are usually immotile due to the lack of flagella in their cells. They float on the water's surface due to accumulated fats with a low molecular weight. The slimy secretion aids the movement of certain diatoms. This slimy secretion is made up of an oily substance excreted by diatoms. This serves as a lubricant for the diatoms' movement.

  • Diatoms are naturally autotrophic. In diatoms, food is preserved in the form of leucosin (crysolaminarian) and fats (oils).  

  • There are two types of diatoms. One is round, while the other is elongated. Diatoms are divided into two categories based on their form: pennate diatoms and  centric diatoms.

2. What are the Uses of Diatoms?

The various uses of diatoms are given below:

  • Diatoms are used in making Soundproofing material.

  • Diatoms are used in the Filtration of oils and syrups.

  • Diatoms are used in Stone polishing. As they are hard.

  • In steam boilers, as a heat insulator. Since the kieselguhr is a poor conductor of electricity, they are used as a thermostat.

  • Diatoms are used in making toothpaste.

  • Some diatoms are used in the manufacture of skin medications.

  • Diatoms are used in the production of certain pharmaceuticals.

  • Diatoms are used as an insecticide because they accumulate oil and dry them out.

3. What type of reproduction do diatoms use?

Mainly reproduction in Diatoms occurs asexually and through cell division which produces two daughter cells; in each daughter cell, one valve is there and reproduction occurs through furrowing. Further Reproduction in diatoms is also possible sexually and in this whole process, the diatoms need to pass through a spore phase called the resting spore. In asexual reproduction which is also called the primary form of reproduction in diatoms, the chromosomes get divided into two parts called frustules or theca.

4. Why must diatoms reproduce sexually?

When Diatoms reproduce asexually the daughter cell which receives the larger frustule from parents becomes the basis to provide support to other smaller frustules. With every single round of reproduction the size of diatoms gets smaller and it decreases their population as well So in order to avoid the size reduction sexual reproduction is necessary. The change in environmental conditions and limited availability of resources are the main causes for the creation of resting spores in diatoms.  

5. What is the classification of a diatom?

Diatoms are classified in different forms which depend from class to division. Sometimes it's called Bacillariophyceae and even Diatomophyceae as well. But apart from these traditionally diatoms are divided into two classes which are centric diatoms and pennate diatoms. In this centric diatoms are said to be radially symmetric and pennate diatoms are bilaterally symmetric. Recent revisions divide diatoms into three classes: centric diatoms (Coscinodiscophyceae), pennate diatoms without a raphe (Fragilariophyceae), and pennate diatoms with a raphe (Bacillariophyceae).

6. Where to learn more about Diatoms?

Explore the biology of Vedantu to learn more about the diatom and its types. Vedantu provides free study material for students which can be downloaded from the Vedantu’s website and app.

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