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1. n. [Geology]

A microscopic, single-celled, freshwater or saltwater algae that has a silica-rich cell wall called a frustule. Diatoms are so abundant that they can form thick layers of sediment composed of the frustules of the organisms that died and sank to the bottom. Frustules have been an important component of deep-sea deposits since Cretaceous time. Diatomite is the sedimentary rock that forms from diatom frustules.

See: diatomitegeologic time scaleplanktonsedimentarysilica

Photomicrograph of a diatom.