Coloured scanning electron micrograph (SEM) of the external mineralised structures of small marine algal organisms


Tiny coccolithophores have had a big impact on the planet over time. Though they are single-celled, these photosynthesising organisms are enclosed in a mosaic, or cage, of microscopic plates that make many very beautiful to look at. The plates are made of calcium carbonate, which the coccoliths pull from the surrounding water. As these small organisms live and die in their trillions, they bequeath their tiny plates to the ocean floor where they form rocks such as chalk. Over geological time, coccoliths have removed significant amounts of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, helping to keep Earth cool as the sun grew hotter.

Scientific name: Coccosphaerales

Rank: Order

Common names:

  • Coccolithophorids,
  • Coccoliths

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The following habitats are found across the Coccolithophores distribution range. Find out more about these environments, what it takes to live there and what else inhabits them.


  1. Life
  2. Chromista
  3. Haptophyte
  4. Prymnesiophyceae
  5. Coccolithophores