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  • A coccolithophore is a unicellular, eukaryotic phytoplankton. They belong either to the kingdom Protista, according to Robert Whittaker's Five kingdom classification, or Chromalveolata, according to the newer Thomas Cavalier-Smith Biological Classification system. Within the Chromalveolata, the coccolithophorids are in the phylum or division Haptophyta, class Coccolithophyceae. Coccolithophorids are distinguished by special calcium carbonate plates of uncertain function called coccoliths, which are also important microfossils. Coccolithophores are almost exclusively marine and are found in large numbers throughout the sunlight zone of the ocean. The most abundant species of coccolithophore, Emiliana huxleyi, belongs to the order Isochrysidales and family Noëlaerhabdaceae. It is found in temperate, subtropical, and tropical oceans. This makes E. huxleyi an important part of the planktonic base of a large proportion of marine food webs. It is also the fastest growing coccolithophore in laboratory cultures.

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