Different Diatom species have hard shells with many different shapes and patterns. The shells stay even after they die, and are useful in palynology.

Palynology is the study of very small natural particles. The word literally means the "study of dust". A palynologist is someone whose job is to identify what the particles are. Samples of particles can come from the air or water or soil or rocks. They could be organic and inorganic. Micropaleontology is a related area of study; it involves very small fossils.


A palynologist uses a microscope. They may also use chemical tests to find out what a particle is made of.

The methods used to study fossils in micropaleontology and in palynology are often different. Micropaleontology often involves breaking and dissolving rocks. Palynology often involves soil or sediment.

The main work of a palynologist is to identify each particle. Many different kinds of particles might be in the same sample. They may include:

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