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Most people are familiar with the shells of large molluscs: clams, scallops, mussels, oysters, snails, päua. It may seem surprising that almost every group of marine creatures produces at least some
kind of skeletal structure – biomineralisation is everywhere in the sea. Vertebrates like us make our skeletons from what we eat, but invertebrates like urchins, barnacles, worms and corals make
their skeletons straight out of seawater. Despite that common origin, there is huge variation in their shapes and sizes and textures. When they die, shells break up into fragments, littering the seafloor with evidence of the past.
I decided to come to New Zealand to work with Prof Cam Nelson, a world authority on temperate-latitude shells and the sediments that come from them, to try to understand more about calcareous algae. Why would a plant that needs the sun make itself a coat of armour?
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