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Mystery Micrograph revived, v2.0 chapter 1

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.


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Back in the good ol’ days on Skeptic Wonder I used to run a little “Mystery Micrograph” series, where an image or a plate (that’s not immediately obvious without context) would be grabbed from a paper and posted without source, and much agony would ensue over trying to figure out what it is (or some cheater who happens to work on the bug would drop by and ruin the fun ;p). Or sometimes it was immediately obvious to readers. In any case, it seemed like people were having fun! So I’d like to bring back the Mystery Micrographs and hope for a bit of interaction (which I probably haven’t been helping by vanishing for the better part of a year…), and this time  I’ve got some of my own images to use too (haha, good luck with reverse Google image search on those!). And of course you are allowed to make guesses and ask questions.

Just one little request: if you’ve already seen the image elsewhere or are deeply familiar with the subject from your work… please try to give others a chance first!

Alright, so let’s start the first round of enigmatic imagery from the alien world of small things! Tell me who this critter is (genus is enough), and what we’re looking at.

Mystery Micrograph 01 (click to enlarge)

Big hint: The colour is completely natural and no stains were used.

(My hope with these Mystery Micrographs is to encourage some active thinking both about interpreting micrographs as well as the microbial world itself — it really takes work to intuitively “feel” things on a foreign scale, and I’m just getting started myself, to be honest!)

Psi Wavefunction About the Author: Psi Wavefunction is a graduate of the University of British Columbia working as a protist researcher (soon to be graduate student) at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia, and blogs about protists and evolution at The Ocelloid as well as at Skeptic Wonder. Follow on Twitter @Ocelloid.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.





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  1. 1. greenhome123 5:54 pm 10/30/2012

    is it Heterosigma akashiwo?

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  2. 2. Bruce Taylor 10:33 pm 11/2/2012

    Mmm…a bit of Blepharisma?

    Link to this
  3. 3. Psi Wavefunction in reply to Psi Wavefunction 12:07 pm 11/3/2012

    Yup, you got it, Bruce! Now, for fun… what structures is the picture of?

    Link to this
  4. 4. Bruce Taylor 3:37 pm 11/3/2012

    I think we’re seeing pigmentocysts (containing “blepharismin,” which seems to do doube-duty as a light sensor & defensive toxin). Also…a stunning DIC-type view of the longitudinal kineties (which induces profound microscope-envy in me), and a spherical something that is probably the macronucleus. What species is this?

    Link to this

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