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Diatoms (Greek: διά (dia) = "through" τέμνειν (temnein) = "to cut", i.e., "cut in half") are a major group of eukaryotic algae, and are one of the most common types of phytoplankton. Most diatoms are unicellular, although some form chains or simple colonies. A characteristic feature of diatom cells is that they are encased within a unique cell wall made of silica. These walls show a wide diversity in form, some quite beautiful and ornate, but usually consist of two symmetrical sides with a split between them, hence the group name.

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