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Testate amoeba in a sea of bacteria

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Here is a filose(=”thin-footed) amoeba from nearby decaying leaf litter. Most likely a species of Lecythium, but these amoebae are so poorly studied it’s hard to establish what’s what (nor has there been hardly any molecular work done to figure out where they fit, but probably somewhere in Cercozoa (in supergroup Rhizaria), near filose scale-plated Euglyphids and other squishy-stringy (and squishy-flagellated) critters. Their pseudopods are fairly dynamic and fun to watch! The well-defined bits and pieces on the slide (rods, mainly) are individual bacteria, which you can actually make out via light microscopy! (just generally not much of their internal structure). I think this image gives a bit of an “amoeba’s eye” glimpse of the surface the amoeba lives on, but also shows a bit of bacterial morphological diversity — while nowhere near as dramatic (or informative) as their genetic and metabolic capabilities, the shapes and structure of their cells can still vary considerably and be complex. Too often, the individual organism is forgotten in today’s microbiology talk, reduced to liquid media and sequences of letters; but even if the individual cells themselves are hard to work with using current tools, I think it’s important to not lose sight of the fundamental, membrane-bound unit of life. (100x objective, DIC; scalebar is 10um)

How many different types of bacteria do you think you can see here? Just for fun — of course one can’t identify such small microorganisms particularly well using morphology!

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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