diatom

The Microscopic Creature That Lives in a Glass House

Ever wonder what it’s like to live in a glass house? Striatella unipunctata, a tropical diatom often found on coral reefs, spends its entire life like this. Because their cell walls are made of silica, the main component of glass, diatoms are often called “algae that live in glass houses.” Though since the silica also contains water, “algae that live in opal houses” might be closer to the truth! (Photo: SERC Phytoplankton Lab) 

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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:

http://youtu.be/jUvJ5ANH86I

 Microscope Monday: Diatoms of Belize

Ecologists from the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center spotted this diatom, called Navicula, drifting in the waters of Belize. Diatoms are microscopic algae, or phytoplankton, roughly the width of a human hair or smaller. But though they’re called algae and use photosynthesis to get their energy, diatoms aren’t plants. They belong to a completely different group, known as Chromista.

(Photo: SERC Phytoplankton Lab. Artistically arranged)

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Microscopic algae

First and second photo are of barrel-shaped diatoms. Diatoms aren’t the typical green color of algae. Instead, they have brown or yellow chloroplasts. They excrete a mucus-like slime and when in large colonies are sometimes referred to as “rock-snot”. They can also cloud up the walls of fish tanks, leading people to believe they are bacteria due to the brown color of the colonies. 

Third photo is Micrasterias, which is a lucky find since they seem to be quite rare where I live

Last photo is a Cladophora filament, which is the algae that makes up those adorable marimo moss balls. A few protists have made it their home.

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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

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One more Plankton Panel. From top to bottom:

1. Freshwater Phytoplankton, mainly Diatoms and Dinoflagellates / from Lake Chuzenji, Nikko, Tochigi Pref., Japan / Microscope:Leica DMRD (DIC)  (CC BY-SA 2.5)

2. Assorted diatoms as seen through a microscope. These specimens were living between crystals of annual sea ice in McMurdo Sound, Antarctica. Image digitized from original 35mm Ektachrome slide. These tiny phytoplankton are encased within a silicate cell wall. (Public Domain - NOAA)

3.  Phytoplankton - the foundation of the oceanic food chain. (Public Domain - NOAA)

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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!