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Any of various microscopic protists of the phylum Bacillariophyta that live in both fresh and marine water, have hard bivalve shells (called frustules) composed mostly of silica, and often live in colonies. Most diatoms can perform photosynthesis. They make up a large portion of the marine plankton and are an important food source for many aquatic animals. The skeletal remains of diatoms are the main constituent of diatomite.