'Single cells, single cells, plankton all the way'... Christmas card made from tiny sea creatures

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It certainly is a Christmas card with a difference.
A marine scientist has produced this incredible Christmas card made from his own pictures of plankton.

Dr Richard Kirby has created a festive scene including a decorated Christmas tree, bells, angels and even the Star of Bethlehem.

Christmas tree of life: Every festive symbol on Dr Richard Kirby's card is made from plankton. The paddle worm Tomopteris Helgolandica looks like a Christmas tree

Because the remarkable creatures come in
so many shapes, sizes and colours the academic has been able to form
them into a classic card.

Included in the card are the paddle worm helgolandica, which looks like a Christmas tree.

There are bells made from the jellyfish Aglanthe digital held together by rings of the phytoplankton Eucampia zodiacus.

Illuminated candles are the larva of the starfish Luidia ciliaris and the star on top of the tree is a juvenile Luidia ciliaris.

The angels are sea angels, Clione limacina, and the fairy lights are Protozoan acantharea.

The Star of Bethlehem is a worm larva and the sky is filled with snowflakes that are actually baby starfish.

Dr Kirby, from Plymouth University, said: 'I was looking through the photographs of plankton and some reminded me of Christmas.

Key: Because of the reaction to his special Christmas card Dr Richard Kirby is considering putting it on sale next year

Key: Because of the reaction to his special Christmas card Dr Richard Kirby is considering putting it on sale next year

'Many people have remarked how certain plankton remind them of other things, so I've collated several pictures to make a classic Christmas card.

'The importance of these micro marvels in the sea can't be underestimated.

'Their importance on a global scale is obvious when you realize that 50 per cent of the world's photosynthesis takes place in the surface of the sea, drawing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere into the oceans and releasing oxygen.

'Starting with the phytoplankton, plant-like cells mostly smaller than the diameter of a human hair, and the tiny animals that eat them called the zooplankton, these creatures underpin the whole marine food chain.
'Without the plankton food web there would be no fish in the sea or seabirds in the skies above.
'The largest mammals on earth, the baleen whales, even rely upon these smallest of sea creatures for their food.
'Most people are unaware of their presence, but if you have been swimming in the sea you will have almost certainly have swallowed them.
'It is also the plankton that give the sea its distinctive smell referred to as the 'sea air' because certain phytoplankton give off aromatic chemicals when they die.
'And they are even responsible for forming clouds because the same chemicals when in the atmosphere cause water droplets to form around them.
'Your car is also fuelled by their remains and over millions of years they created some of the most enigmatic features of our coastline.
'When you turn on the oven to cook the Christmas turkey, the gas comes from plankton that sank to the seafloor over hundreds of millions of years of earth's history.

'So when you drive your car to the festive family gathering it is all thanks to the processed plankton that fuel it.'

The worldwide success of Dr Kirby's book called 'Ocean Drifters - a secret world beneath the waves' prompted him to create the image which he may put on sale next year.


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