State of the Planet

News from the Columbia Climate School

Tiny Architects

Foraminifera are tiny protists that live in the ocean. Most of them build shells of calcium carbonate. Their kind have lived in the ocean for millions of years. Photo: Kelly Strzepek.
Foraminifera are tiny plankton that typically build elaborate shells of calcium carbonate. Their kind have lived in the ocean for millions of years. Photo: Kelly Strzepek.

 

Heaved upwards from your deep and watery grave,

From the quiet murk onto a chaotic, brine-encrusted ship deck,

You’re ever so carefully washed free from the mud,

From all the rinsings of continents that settled out of the sea with you

Like snow, softly entombing your remains.

Now through my looking glass, you lie scattered

Like discarded Christmas ornaments,

Lying in broken glory, shards of a former world;

Tiny fossils, utterly bewitching.

Some people say there must be a knowing architect behind all this design;

Looking at your tiny turrets, buttresses, embellishments,

I understand the sentiment.

How is it, and why is it, that you craft such castles

Smaller than a grain of sand?

I know it is your work, not that of some artful watchmaker;

I’ve watched your live descendants raise their miniscule arches,

Lay down their mortar and stone, precisely and perfectly.

Still, it’s hard to believe my eyes. I am desperate to ask you,

Clever protist with no brain, to tell me all your secrets.

I wonder if some life-form, eons hence,

Will ever find my ancient bones,

Marvel at their beauty,

And imagine the life of the mysterious being that grew them.

 

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This is one in a series of posts by Katherine Allen, a researcher in geochemistry and paleoclimate at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory and the Department of Marine and Coastal Sciences at Rutgers University.

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