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phytoplankton, also known as microalgae, are similar to terrestrial plants in that they contain chlorophyll and require sunlight in order to live and grow. Most phytoplankton is buoyant and floats in the upper part of the ocean, where sunlight penetrates the water.
Phytoplankton also requires inorganic nutrients such as nitrates, phosphates, and sulfur which they convert into proteins, fats, and carbohydrates.
The two main classes of phytoplankton are dinoflagellates and diatoms. Dinoflagellates use a whip-like tail, or flagella, to move through the water and their bodies are covered with complex shells. Diatoms also have shells, but they are made of a different substance and their structure is rigid and made of interlocking parts. Diatoms do not rely on flagella to move through the water and instead rely on ocean currents to travel through the water.