Thursday, May 7, 2009

Klingon Warship

I found this little rotifer called Keratella, looking like an armour-plated Klingon warship, or maybe a medieval chain-mail glove, in a moorland pool about 500 metres above sea level in Weardale. Under the microscope it looks like a swimming claw, propelled by those whiskery looking hairs that you can see between the armoured ‘fingers’, which also serve to produce a water current that sweeps minute food particles into its jaws. The red spot is a light-sensitive eye spot. Most amazing of all, that egg-shaped object being towed around behind one of them is an egg – but not just any old egg. These animals reproduce by cloning themselves and never reproduce sexually, so the individual inside the egg is an exact genetic copy of the adult animal it’s attached to. When I peered down the microscope, I could see this animal’s alter-ego squirming inside the egg, ready to hatch. Keratella is about a quarter of a millimetre long.


  1. I shouldn't be looking at pictures like this so close to bed time; that thing may be only 1/4mm long but it's going to get me during the night, I just know it.

  2. Another fascinating post, Greenfingers.
    What magnification do you use for these sorts of creatures? Your microscope may have been inexpensive but the optics appear excellent.

  3. Rambling Rob., I once remember seeing a midnight movie called 'The Creeping Hand', where a detached hand that looked remarkably like this strangled it's victims in the dead of night.........

  4. The original magnifications were x100 and x400, Midmarsh John. The microscope is a Chinese-made copy of a much more expensive but onsolete Nikon instrument and it seems to be quite a good copy.. It's amazing how varied these rotifers are... quite a few are free-swimming and move fast; those beating hairs seem to be a very efficient propulsion system. Thanks for the comments.


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