Earth Aliens


Here are some forays with my microscopes. The early shots are from my ancient Bausch & Lomb microscope, circa 1928. The more recent movies are from a Nikon Eclipse 200.

Slime Mold (Physarum polycephalum)

·     Baby slime mold, leaving its oat bran flake for the first time (40X)

Accidental background vocals are provided by Melanie, Age 10, singing karoaoke with Lego Rock Band (song: "Check Yes Juliet" by We the Kings).

I only know the species for this slime mold because I ordered it from Carolina Biological Supply Company. I usually make it a principle not to pay for protista, but I made an exception for this beauty.

·     The bouncing baby slime mold is one day old now (40X)

This time, Melanie is getting into Ghostbusters!

Although still young, the cytoplasmic streaming is quite fast already.

·     Slimy the Slime mold (100X)

Notice that the cytoplasmic streams reverse every 20-30 seconds, and also the differentiation of the "road network" into thick 4-lane autobahns, 2-lane state roads, and small 1-lane country roads.

·     A travel tour of the slime mold (100X)

The slme mold is 5 days old now and has well articulated tube structures at several size levels. At the outer edges, there is a delta-like river mouth that ends at the wall of the cytoplasm. Pretty intricate structure for a single cell, albeit multinucleated.

·     We're ready for your close-up, Slimy (400X)

At this level, one can clearly see the individual pieces of debris and food being swept along the arteries of the slime mold, the river junctions, and the stream reversals over time.

The Euplotes mosh pit

·     Picking on the chubby guy (100X)

These euplotes were cultivated on a hay infusion with some table scraps added in for good measure. The cilia on the euplotes are clear, as are internal structures like contractile vacuoles - the white circles used to pump fluid around the cell and maintain osmotic equilibrium. I used to think that the cilia of a protozoa were always oscillating, but they are often stationary on these euplotes, and the euplotes use them as much for crawling around tasty morsels as they do for proper swimming.

·     The Euplotes meat market (100X)

This was a particularly busy part of this drop of water that I stumbled upon. Then again, many of them are. With so much stuff going on in every drop of water, it boggles the mind to even contemplate the virtually infinite expanse represented by our rain water collection cistern.

Unidentified floating object

·     Sqirming with life (40X)

Honestly I don't know what this is, but it was filled with these greenish, squirming things. About five minutes after this movie was taken, the cell wall of the outer object broke down and the little objects squirmed their separate ways.

·     Same thing, attached to detritus (40X)

This is another view of the same thing/things.

Annnelid worm

·     A centerfold beauty (40X)

This is an Oligochaete annelid worm, perhaps something in the Pristina genus but I could be off there. And pristine in her earthy beauty she is. Nick, in F. Scott Fitzgerald's "The Great Gatsby," describes himself as "simultaneously enchanted and repelled by the inexhaustible variety of life." That pretty much fits my attitude toward this worm.

·     Doing the peristaltic wave (40X)

This gives you a good view of the peristaltic wave. In humans, peristalsis is a contraction of smooth muscles used to help our food reach its destination. Annelids use the same wave of muscle contractions to help them locomote. But, given how close their guts are to the outside, and the fact that you can see her breakfast detrius still digesting inside, it may well be serving double duty.

·     Guileless and transparent (40X)

Not only is she completely nude, but you can see right through her. The short bristles that stick out periodically from her are called setae, and are used for locomotion.

Water Mite

·     A mini tank (40X)

Aquatic mites belong to the phylum Arthropoda and to the class Arachnida, the same class as spiders. Like spiders, these mites have eight legs. This one was found in my daughters' kiddie pool. I haven't shown them this movie for obvious reasons.


·     Self-inflicted futility (40X)

Like an academic, this nematode is thrashing around in a situation it has essentially created for itself. It has a bit of sticky, glue-like substance at its tail, which keeps it tethered to the spot even though it seems that it would like to break free.

Homo Sapiens sapiens

·     Here comes the jazz

There are some poorly focused blue green algae here, but the reason this particular clip is biologically noteworthy is because it accidentally captures the audio of Eleanor's (Age 7) impromptu performance of two newly created songs. The first is "Everybody likes Jazz" which segues to "Here comes the jazz." She is accompanying herself on an unplugged electric guitar.

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Created April 17, 2010. Modified not even once
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