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I came across a confusing word when I was reading a Scientific American story, “Controversial Spewed Iron Experiment Succeeds as Carbon Sink” (by David Biello). It goes like this:

“One key to the whole experiment’s success turns out to be the specific diatoms involved, which use silicon to make their shells and tend to form long strands of cellular slime after their demise that falls quickly to the seafloor.”

I'm wondering what “cellular” means in this context. Does it mean “of (diatom) cells” or “porous”?

Could someone kindly enlighten me on this?

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My understanding is that the slime in question is formed of the bodies (the cells) of the dead diatoms. Where does porous come into it? Is it mentioned in a previous sentence?

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Diatoms are generally porous, so perhaps that's why they thought it might mean that. But I've never known 'cellular' to mean porous. –  Richard Smith Oct 13 '12 at 15:57
Thank you so much for your answer, terdon. My original intepretation was that too. But since diatomite is renowed for its porosity (which was not discussed in the article), I am wondering if it could mean "porous" too? –  Shummy Oct 13 '12 at 16:00
Thanks for your comment too, Richard Smith. My Collins dictionary does include "porous" as a meaning for "cellular". –  Shummy Oct 13 '12 at 16:03
@Shummy, this is getting way off topic but I imagine your dictionary had "porous" as a possible synonym of "cellular". When talking about fabrics or clothes, cellular can mean something "knitted so as to form holes" (from NOAD). Porous could be taken a synonym of cellular in that, very specific, context but is not relevant here. –  terdon Oct 13 '12 at 17:29
Thank you all for your answers and comments. You have helped me to get a much clearer understanding. –  Shummy Oct 14 '12 at 3:26

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