Saturday, June 18, 2011

Banana Stellate Parenchyma

These beautiful cells come from the midrib of a banana leaf. Each is shaped like a 6- or 7-armed star, with its arms joined to the arms of surrounding cells, forming a lattice of cells. This form of tissue is known as stellate parenchyma and you can find another example here. The image was produced using polarised light and the brightly coloured birefringent objects inside the cells are calcium oxalate crystals inside the cell vacuole. You can see further examples of calcium oxalate crystals, including a video of their Brownian motion inside a cell, if you click here.

To find these cells you need to look inside the midrib of a banana (Musa sp.) leaf .....

by cutting transversely across the midrib, which reveals this internal pattern of strenthening tissue filled with very delicate, transverse plates of glassy cells ....

... then dissect out one of these plates of cells and mount it on a microscope slide.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Life in 10 Drops of Water: Assorted Protists and rotifers

This is the fourth in the series of images of some of the organisms found in just a few drops of water collected from a pond in a disused quarry on the edge of the moors in Weardale.

An amoeba. I could spend a long time watching these - it's rather relaxing watching an organism whose motto for life must be 'go with the flow'

It seems to have ingested a wide varieties of objects.

This is one of the free-swimming ploimate rotifers, with tails that look like scissors - possibly Monommata caudata...? 

Vorticella - a ciliate protist on a stalk, that contracts like a spring when disturbed. The green object is a cyanobacterium - possibly Gloeocapsa.

A ciliate protist that creeps along using strange 'whiskers' - and also swims very actively using smaller cilia. You can see a contractile vacuole quite nicely here. I think this, and the three below, might all be Oxytricha.

All three of the above ciliate protists look rather well fed - full of undigested algae.

This beautiful object is the flask-shaped shell of the testate rhizopod Cyphoderia ampulla. The amoeba that lived inside has long-since died.

I thought this might be the shell of a testate rhizopod, but Natalia has kindly identified it as a tintinnid  ..........

... at higher magnification you can see that it's constructed of tiny translucent particles....

... that are especially fine and fit together beautifully around the orifice

.... and finally another heliozoan, that appears to be ingesting something

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Life in a few Drops of Water:Dinoflagellates

This is the third in the series of images of some of the organisms found in just a few drops of water collected from a pond in a disused quarry on the edge of the moors in Weardale

This little object (which I think may be a species of Peridinium), a mere five one hundredths of a millimetre across, is a dinoflagellate - a single-celled, hardshelled organism that's powered by two rapidly undulating flagellae. One runs on the horizontal groove around the 'equator' of the example you can see here. The other runs in vertical groove, extending from the equator to the apex - it's out of sight on the distal side of this image, although you can just see the apex of the vertical groove at the top. It seems like an unlikely means of motive power but it works - this one whizzed all over the slide before it paused for long enough for me to get a photograph.

This is the empty shell of a dead dinoflagellate, which reveals the intricate pattern on the armoured surface composed of cellulose plates. Unfortunately.... wasn't intact - you can see where about a quarter of the sphere has broken away, but you can also see the equatorial flagellar groove rather nicely. The green object approrach from lower right is a diatom, which is just about to punt the diatom out of the way as it glides past.
For some fascinating recent research on dinoflageelates, take a look at this post about a predatory dinoflagellate at Jennifer Frazer's The Artful Amoeba web site, where you can read about their amazing biology and also find links to drawings and electron micrographs that show the organism rather more clearly than my photographs.

Coming next: An assortment of protists