The Coast by Pam Walker, Elaine Wood

By Pam Walker, Elaine Wood

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Tiny sacs of oil within the cells keep some species afloat since oil is less dense than water and will float above it. Other species have very lightweight frustules that float easily. Many types of diatoms are equipped with projections and wings that slow their rate of sinking. Along both temperate and tropical shores, an unusual variety of diatom forms mucuslike sheaths, or tubes, that hold colonies of cells. These tubes resemble the long, thin threads of filamentous brown algae, but a close look under a microscope shows that the tubes hold large diatom cells.

Many of the body functions that are performed by tissues and organs in higher animals are carried out by amoebalike cells in sponges. When food is digested, these cells pick up the nutrient molecules and share them with other cells by traveling throughout the body of the sponge, crawling 44 T The oast through the mesoglea and both cell layers. The cells also perform jobs such as collecting and removing waste products as well as arranging spicules in their proper places. Sponges eat by gathering tiny food particles that are suspended in the water, then processing them to extract the nutrients.

When a coast is young, all of the processes that affect it are the ones associated with land. Rains dissolve minerals in rocks and soil, glaciers dig troughs and push moraine to the coast, rivers carry soil to the sea, and sections of the Earth’s crust crack, leaving gaps. As a coast ages, it is also impacted by natural forces in the ocean, such as waves and water. Coasts are both built and eroded by waves and currents, and organisms such as corals and mangrove trees make further changes. In some places, coastlines are rocky, varying in structure from cliffs to piles of boulders.

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