I have always liked that one of the oldest creatures on the earth, the blue-green algae, is easy to find. It is the planet’s bathtub ring, appearing in an infinite band along the rocks of the ocean’s tidal zones. I like that combination of esoteric knowledge, and things turned up to their max: maximally old, and maximum circumference. In my head the blue green algae bathtub ring is filed somewhere near the San Francisco cable car system – which gets high marks for largest flat continuously running mechanical device of some kind.
But I’m thinking that this article in today’s New York Times by the ever entertaining Carl Zimmer may trump those. Apparently bodies of water have, living on their surface, a thin film of stuff. Some sort of vast membrane.
…the top hundredth-inch of the ocean is somewhat like a sheet of jelly. And this odd habitat, thinner than a human hair, is home to an unusual menagerie of microbes. “It’s really a distinct ecosystem of its own,” …
And obviously for some definition of big this is the biggest ecosystem on the planet.
The discovery of this new world leads to lots of questions. How does it effect the waves? How does it effect the movement of gas, carbon dioxide for example, across the boundary. How does effect the movement of heat? What role did this play history of life.
It with some pride and concern that my son’s first bemused question upon having this revealed to him was – “Have we figured out how to kill it?”