Staurosira venter

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Staurosira venter

Diatoms are microscopic single-celled organisms. They can be found in areas that contain water such as oceans, lakes, streams, ice, soil and even in tree bark.

Image: A microscopic look at Staurosira venter.

3D View: Staurosira venter
A close up of a Staurosira venter

Why this species is important

Staurosira venter(its scientific name) is a diatom that has evolved to thrive in frigid Arctic freshwaters (water that does not contain salt). Although these life forms are very small, they are one of the most common species found in the Arctic. They form the base of the food chain for many of the Arctic’s freshwater life.


Climate change and food webs

As the Arctic warms, it is widely expected that the temperature of the waters in various lakes in the Arctic will change as well. Staurosira venter has been able to survive and thrive in frigid waters. As these waters warm, scientists do not know what will happen to Staurosira venter or the food webs that it supports.

The water temperature of lakes is directly related to the air temperature. This illustration depicts the planet’s air temperature and how it is expected to change over a 90 year period. Sliding the scale from left (2000) to right (2090), the air temperature increases.  As the climate warms the average air temperature will rise by at least 12°C.

A map showing an increase in air temperature by 12C between the years 2000 and 2090.
2090 (*projected air temperature)
2000 (air temperature)



Staurosira venter is unique in that it builds a glass shell made of silica around itself for protection. Through its glass house, Staurosira venter collects the sun’s energy which it converts into food and oxygen.


Fossil record keepers


Diatoms have existed for millions of years and can be found preserved in the fossil record. As the shell of Staurosira venter rarely decays, scientists can determine when they existed in the past. They can also learn what the climate was like during a specific period of time based on the different species’ and qualities of the preserved shell.


Climate change indicators


Today, scientists use Staurosira venter as an indicator species of climate change. An indicator species is a species that is used by scientists to determine the overall health of a certain environment. Staurosirella pinnata is quickly becoming less dominant in the Arctic, an important indicator of the changing Arctic environment.