A Bacterium on a Diatom on an Amphipod

I see a lot of science stuff, and it’s pretty hard to get me to say “wow” … Just kidding, I say it all the time!

Definitely said it when I saw this brain-melting illustration of the scale differences between the domains of life. In one electron microscope picture!! Just remember, there’s about a trillion of those little bacteria on and in you all the time, just that tiny.

If you like this, you’ll definitely like this interactive “scale of the universe” tool.

(tip o’ the electron microscope to my Twitter friends who shared this)


are tiny, mostly single-celled algae that live in water. They’re known for their mesmerizing shapes and symmetry, but don’t let their beauty fool you: these guys contribute up to 45% of the ocean’s total source of organic nutrients and 20% of the oxygen you breathe.

Recent research
has found that diatoms are sensitive to their climates. Warmer climates throughout Earth’s history have caused a decrease in diatom diversity. It’s believed that warming climates now will jeopardize the extinction of a large number of diatoms, which could harm worldwide ecosystems and food chains that humans depend on. Scientists warn it’s still too early to extrapolate this data to manmade global warming.

Image by Christian Gautier/Nikon Small World.


diatoms - california academy of sciences geology

1. Biddulphia deodora -  Miocene, ph#000058D,scale bar = 10 µm

2. Actinoptychus chenevierei - holotype, Cretaceous, ph#000677D, scale bar = 10 µm

3. Lithodesmium margaritaceum - Cretaceous, ph#000865D, scale bar = 10 µm

4. Aulacodiscus currus - holotype, Eocene, ph#001088D, scale bar = 10 µm

5. Triceratium diversum - holotype, Eocene, ph#001131D, scale bar = 10 µm

6. Triceratium swastika - Cretaceous, ph#000956D, scale bar = 10 µm


From Drifter to Dynamo: The Story of Plankton

Most plankton are tiny drifters, wandering in a vast ocean. But where wind and currents converge they become part of a grander story… an explosion of vitality that affects all life on Earth, including our own. Watch the latest “Deep Look” video from KQED and pbsdigitalstudios:



oo28oo requested some eukaryotic algae pictures, so I figured I’d post some of my favorite ones I’ve found over the years! The individual names of the algae will pop up if you click on the photos 

As I mentioned before, many of these algae came from slimy and disgusting clumps of pond scum. They usually smelled pretty horrible, too! It’s only when you look at them under the microscope that you see the true beauty.

Edit: shout out to Pepperofthenickel for identifying the Scenedesmus in the bottom left as Scenedesmus dimorphus!

This almost looks like a watercolour painting, but it is a true colour photograph taken from NASA’s Aqua Satellite on the 31st of August, 2010.

The striking swirls of turquoise, teal, navy and green are a result of a massive phytoplankton bloom in the Barents Sea. The variation in colour is attributed to the diversity of plankton species within the bloom. The bright blue colours are consistent with coccolithophores, a type of phytoplankton that is coated in an opaque shell that reflects light, turning the ocean a velvety turquoise. The green colours in this image are the result of diatoms, another type of phytoplankton.


To read more on phytoplankton, see here: http://nerrs.noaa.gov/doc/siteprofile/acebasin/html/biores/phyto/pytext.htm

Image courtesy of NASA’s Earth Observatory. Find them on facebook, here: http://www.facebook.com/NASAEarthObservatory?fref=ts


The Olympus BioScapes Competition is widely recognized as the world’s foremost showcase for outstanding images and movies of life science subjects captured through light microscopes:

1. Dr. Igor Siwanowicz
HHMI Janelia Farm Research Campus
Ashburn, Virginia, United States
Specimen: Single-cell fresh water algae (desmids). Composite image including, concentric from the outside: Micrasterias rotata, Micrasterias sp., M. furcata, M. americana, 2x M. truncata, Euastrum sp. and Cosmarium sp.
Technique: Confocal imaging, 400x

2. Mr. Spike Walker
Staffordshire, United Kingdom
Specimen: Lily flower bud, transverse section.
Technique: Darkfield illumination, stitched images

3. Dr. Igor Siwanowicz
HHMI Janelia Farm Research Campus Ashburn, Virginia, United States
Specimen: Rotifers around a single-cell green alga (desmid Staurastrum sexangulare).
Technique: Confocal imaging, magnification 400x

4. Mr. Frank Fox
Trier, Rheinland-Pflaz, Germany
Specimen: Diatom from oamaru fossil
Technique: Darkfield

5.Mr. Rogelio Moreno Gill
Panama City, Panama
Specimen: Micrasterias furcata from lake sample.
Technique: Widefield fluorescence (autofluorescence) with 3D deconvolution, image stacks

Winner of Honorable Mention in Olympus’ BioScapes Digital Imaging Competition® of 2010.

Shown here is the polarized light micrograph of a Diatom arachnoidiscus. Diatoms encase themselves in an outer cell wall called a frustule, which is composed of silica, or glass. Although these glass frustules provide diatoms with structure and defense, they are also extremely beautiful.

By Michael Shribak, Marine Biological Laboratory, Woods Hole, MA, USA