The formation of sinking particles in the ocean, which promote carbon sequestration into deeper water and sediments, involves algal polysaccharides acting as an adhesive, binding together molecules, cells and minerals. These as yet unidentified adhesive polysaccharides must resist degradation by bacterial enzymes or else they dissolve and particles disassemble before exporting carbon. Here, using monoclonal antibodies as analytical tools, we trace the abundance of 27 polysaccharide epitopes in dissolved and particulate organic matter during a series of diatom blooms in the North Sea, and discover a fucose-containing sulphated polysaccharide (FCSP) that resists enzymatic degradation, accumulates and aggregates. Previously only known as a macroalgal polysaccharide, we find FCSP to be secreted by several globally abundant diatom species including the genera Chaetoceros and Thalassiosira. These findings provide evidence for a novel polysaccharide candidate to contribute to carbon
sequestration in the ocean.