One of the mysteries of the English language finally explained.
A minute rounded calcareous platelet, numbers of which form the spherical shells of coccolithophores.
- ‘The living cell possesses a gelatinous sheath in which are embedded calcareous plates termed coccoliths.’
- ‘At this rate it is possible to produce an average 100 metre thickness of coccoliths as calcareous ooze on the ocean floor in less than 200 years.’
- ‘Chalk, though it may include shell fragments, is predominantly composed of coccoliths from planktonic algae, forming fine-grained limestone.’
- ‘Like the rest of the world's seas, the Sargasso Sea has a population of the subsurface algae called coccoliths as well as planktonic foraminifera.’
- ‘The team did not limit themselves to foraminifera but used other planktonic groups such as the coccoliths and radiolaria.’
Mid 19th century: from Greek kokkos ‘grain or berry’ + lithos ‘stone’.
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