PlanFluar 10x

Moticam 10

Crystals in
Larix decidua


PlanApo 40x
pol. lam.

Moticam 10 stack

Parnassius apollo
part of wing


PlanApo 20x

Moticam 10 stack

Femur cross


PlanApo 20x

Moticam 10



PlanAchro 100x o.i.

Moticam 5

Onion mitosis


PlanAchro 60x

Moticam 5

Barnacle on



Moticam 10 stack

Tumbled gems



Moticam 10 stack

Eimeria stiedae
in liver

PlanFluar 20x

Moticam 10

Penicillium with



Moticam 10



PlanAchro 10X

Moticam 5

Urea crystals


PlanFluar 20x
pol lam

Moticam 10

Spicules bring light

  • spic

Sponges, like all animals, possess some sort of a skeleton that gives their bodies shape. As a whole, poriferans have diverse skeletal elements including calcareous laminae, organic filaments, and siliceous and calcareous spicules. The skeletons of each of the major poriferan groups are distinctive and have been used to reconstruct their evolutionary relationships.

This is a second brief publication about spicules, see the Motic publication of December 30, 2014. This image is completely different however; here the dark field technique has been adapted, using a turret condenser.

Research has demonstrated that the spicules of certain deep-sea sponges have similar traits to optical fiber. In addition, these spicules have built-in lenses in the ends which gather and focus light in dark conditions. It has been theorized that this ability may function as a light source for symbiotic life forms which live inside some sponges. Spicules funnel light deep inside sea sponges. Anyhow, the spicules shown in this image bring quite some light into the scene.


How insects breath 

  • Spiracle 10X
  • Tracheas BA410E 4X

The basic insect respiratory system consists of a series of rigid tubes, called tracheae, connected to the outside via pairs of pores called spiracles (typically one pair per segment on the sides of the thorax and abdomen, lacking on certain segments). Air enters the system via the spiracles and the tracheae are air-filled. The spiracles can often be opened and closed and lead into short tracheae that enter a pair of longitudinal tracheal trunks, which are the main tracheal tubes. From these lateral tracheae branch smaller tracheae that supply the tissues with air. This supply is especially rich in the more active tissues, such as muscles, nervous tissues and the gut. Tracheae also extend into the wings, running inside the wing veins.
The tracheae branch until they reach a diameter of 2 to 5 micrometers and then often enter stellate tracheole cells (transition cells) from which they emerge as finer branches called tracheoles, with diameters less than one micrometer. These tracheoles terminate inside the tissues, almost always as open-ended or blind-ended tubes about 200 nanometers in diameter.
The outside cuticle of the insect extends inwards through the spiracles as spiral ridges (taenidia) to line the inside of the main tracheae, preventing the trachea from collapsing. These ridges may be rings (annular) or spirals. In the smaller tracheae this cuticle is reduced to a thin membrane lining.
Source: Cronodon


Micro skeletons from the sea

  • silico flagelates

Silicoflagellates belong to a small group of marine planktonic organisms with siliceous skeletons composed of opaline rods. Silicoflagellates are both photosynthetic and heterotrophic. The cell size  ranges from 20 to 80 μm.

Their internal silica skeletons are composed of a network of bars, and resemble those of radiolarians but are generally much less complex. Silicoflagellate skeletons usually comprise 1-2% of the siliceous component of marine sediments; they are thus much less abundant than diatoms. However, they are widely distributed throughout the world ocean. Living silicoflagellates propel themselves with one long eukaryotic flagellum. The spines on the skeleton may function in retarding sinking, which is of obvious importance to a photosynthetic organism. Only asexual reproduction is known. Silicoflagellate skeletons may vary considerably within a single species, making it difficult to define species.

Silicoflagellates first appear in the Early Cretaceous and become common in the Late Cretaceous. They were somewhat more diverse in the early Cenozoic than they are today.

Prepared slide by Klaus Kemp UK

Holding on to your host 

  • Monieza expansa 4X

Moniezia expansa is primarily present throughout ungulates of Europe, Asia, Africa, America and Australia. This parasite has also been found in South American countries, including Peru and Argentina.

Like all cestodes, or tapeworms, M. expansa are flat with multiple segments of proglottids, used for producing gametes for reproduction. The adult bodies lack digestive tracts and are covered with microvilli to increase surface area for the absorption of nutrients. Moniezia expansa adults can reach lengths of 4 to 5 meters and are separated into three sections including the scolex, neck and strobila. The scolex is usually less than 1 millimeter, and contains suckers and hooks to assist in holding on to the host. The small neck produces immature proglottids, while the large strobila (main body) consists of a large chain of mature male and female proglottids.

Moniezia expansa occupies three different environments during its life cycle: the external environment, the body cavity of the intermediate host (oribatid mite), and the intestine of the definitive host (ungulate). First, the eggs of M. expansa exist in the external environment until accidentally ingested by the intermediate host, an oribatid (ground living) mite. The eggs of M. expansa exist in ungulates' feces, most regularly in pastures where these animals feed. The oribatid mite occupies the first inch of turf, hiding during the day, and searching for food at night. Moniezia expansa eggs will then grow and develop to adults in the oribatid mite’s body cavity. Through ingestion of the oribatid mite by ungulates, the adult M. expansa is able to feed on nutrients in the host’s intestine. 

Proglottids:    a segment of a tapeworm containing both male and female reproductive organs.

Gametes:       a mature sexual reproductive cell.

Microvilli:        a thin protuberance present in great abundance at the surface of some epithelial cells,  thus increasing the surface area available for absorption.

Oribatid mites:          a group of mites which live in the top layer of the soil.

Prepared slide by Lieder

Ants, one of the world's largest barely visible biomass

  • ant ba410e4xMot10

Ants are a group of colony-forming social insects, which belong to the order of Hymenoptera. Ants have been able to adapt to very different habitats; where they occur, ants are the dominantlife form on the bottom. It is estimated that the total biomass of ants is one of the largest incomparison with those of other animal species on earth. Because ants occur anywhere in theworld (except Antarctica), they are one of the most successful groups of animals. Many antspecies build the nest in the ground or in hollow trees,some spin leaves together to make anest, while others live in crevices between rocks.

An ant colony consists of one (or several) queen(s), workers (all females) and sometimesyoung males and virgin queens. The largest group are the workers, which together divide thework tasks. There are spies, food gatherers, nest-maintainers, nursemaids, soldiers, etc.When the nest is large enough, a part of the growinglarvae are raised to males and queens.Together they leave the nest flying when the time is right. This happens often on warm daysafter rain. In the air, the males mate with the queens. The males die shortly thereafter and thequeenswillseek a new nest site. This can be done in flight, so that even in window boxes 10meters above the ground nests may arise. Ants are sometimes kept as pets, in a so-called formicarium.

Prepared slide by Lieder

Stuck on a mussel

  • 1 Barnacles on mussel SMZ171Mot10stack
  • 2 Barnacle trapping legs BA410planapo10XMot10stack
  • 3 Barnacle eggs SMZ171Mot10

It was Charles Darwin who made a detailed study of barnacles in the period from 1846 to 1854, so after his trip around the world on the Beagle, but before the appearance of his ‘Origin of Species' in 1859. By inter alia this study about barnacles, Darwin gained initial reputation within the scientific establishment of the 19th century.

The barnacle is a hardy animal that is found in or very closely to sea water. Although it is frequently confused for a mollusc because of its hard outer shell, it is actually a crustacean, closely related to crabs and lobsters.

Barnacles are most often seen as roughly circular sessile invertebrates and are permanently attached to the substrate they live on. In their juvenile form they are free-floating, but eventually they attach themselves to any nearby rock, shell, or other object and stay there for the rest of their lives. Their shells are composed of calcite.

Barnacles are often seen on crabs, whales, boats, rocks and on the shells of sea turtles. Although some species of barnacle are parasitic, most barnacle species are harmless, because they are filter feeders and do not interfere with an animal's normal diet and do not harm that animal that they live on in any way. Many species of barnacle are so harmless that in fact, an animal that is covered in them, may not even notice!

There are more than 1,000 known species of barnacle that inhabit shallow and tidal waters around the world. Although many species of barnacle are very small, some can grow to as large as 7cm and even bigger barnacles can often be seen. Barnacles typically live for between 5 and 10 years, but some of the larger species are known to be much older.

Apollo, a lifespan of a few weeks only

  • Parnassius apollo 310eplanapo20xmot10stk
The Apollo butterfly (Parnassius apollo) is a butterfly of the family Papilionidae. The wing varies in length between 3.4 and 4.0 cm. The rear wing is mostly rounded. The rear wings usually have two round red spots on the top and several at the bottom side. In addition, both the front and rear wings have dark spots. The caterpillars are about 5 cm long, black with short spiky hair and have orange-red, sometimes yellow spots, lined up along both sides. The host plant of the caterpillars is White Stonecrop (Sedum album). The caterpillars can also be found on Houseleek and Sedum telephium, (the latter especially in Scandinavia). The flying time is from May to September. The life span is 2 to 3 weeks.

As a butterfly these animals visit not only the flowers of White Stonecrop, but they also have a preference, for the red and violet flowers of thistles (e.g. Carduus nutans) and Centaurea species such as Knapweed and Origanum vulgare. The butterfly likes to sit on flowers and stones, sunbathing. It overwinters as an egg.


Skeletons from the past and present

  • radiolara planapo10xmot10zerstk
With their glassy skeletons of often perfect geometric form and symmetry, radiolarians are among the most beautiful of all protists. They are also an ancient group, going back all the way to the early Cambrian Period. Their abundance in many rocks, their long geologic history, and their diversity through time make them important sources of information on the geologic age and structure of many deposits.

Radiolaria can range anywhere from 30 microns to 2 mm in diameter. Their skeletons tend to have arm-like extensions that resemble spikes, which are used both to increase surface area for buoyancy and to capture prey. Most radiolarians are planktonic, and get around by coasting along ocean currents. Most are somewhat spherical, but there exist a wide variety of shapes, including cone-like and tetrahedral forms (see the image above). Besides their diversity of form, radiolarians also exhibit a wide variety of behaviours. They can reproduce sexually or asexually; they may be filter feeders or predators; and may even participate in symbiotic relations with unicellular algae.

Though their silica skeletons have allowed us to find numerous fossils, scientists still have not been able to successfully develop a complete classification scheme for them. The evolution of the Radiolaria can be easily traced on the broad scale, with major transitions in the global fauna, but a concise taxomony reflecting the evolutionary relationships of major groups is still elusive. Until comparatively recently, radiolarians were primarily studied by micropaleontologists, and only at the end of the 20th century have scientists from other fields begun to study these fascinating protists as well.

Source: UCMP


Feather facts

  • Feather paraceet semi darkfield 10x
Feathers appear to have evolved from scales and are composed of B-keratin. Scales and feathers develop in a similar fashion. In actuality, birds have both feathers and scales. You can find scales on the legs and feet of most birds

.Feathers are incredibly strong and yet are incredibly flexible. To allow both lift and forward movement, feathers can bend at almost a right angles.

Feathers are made of a shaft, called the rachis and the vanes on either side. Vanes are made of barbs that are arranged side by side up the shaft of the feather. Barbules grow from the barbs, which have tiny hooks that interlock in a similar way to hook-and-loop fasteners. The short bare part at the base of the shaft is called the calamus. If viewed crossways, the calamus is basically hollow.

There is an opening at the very tip of the base where the blood supply entered the feather when it was growing. Once a feather is fully grown, the supply of blood is sealed off and the feather itself becomes “dead,” similar to the ends of human nails.

On most flight feathers, the vanes are of unequal length. This gives feathers the ability to twist under air pressure. The large flight feathers are attached to bone by connective tissue, and have little or no down at the base. All other feathers are attached to muscles below the skin.

Source: Raptor Research Foundation


Optical fibers in sponges?

  • Grantia BA410 10XpollamMot10
  • Grantia spicules BA410BFF50Xoipollam
Grantia  is  a  genus  of  calcareous  sponges  belonging  to  the family  Grantiidae.  Grantias contain spicules and spongin fibers. Spicules are structural elements found in most sponges. They provide structural support and deter predators. Large spicules, visible to the naked eye are referred to as megascleres, while smaller, microscopic ones are termed microscleres. 

Research  on  the  Euplectella  aspergillum  (Venus'  Flower  Basket)  demonstrated  that  the spicules of certain deep-sea sponges have similar traits to optical fibre. In addition to being able  to  trap  and  transport  light,  these  spicules  have  a  number  of  advantages  over commercial  fibre  optic  wire.  They  are  stronger,  resist  stress easier, and form  their  own support elements. Also, the low-temperature formation of the spicules, as compared to the high temperature stretching process of commercial fibre optics, allows for the addition of impurities which improve the refractive index. In addition, these spicules have built-in lenses in the ends which gather and focus light in dark conditions.

It has been theorized that this ability may function as a light source for symbiotic diatoms (as with Rosella racovitzae) or as an attractor for shrimp which live inside the Venus' Flower Basket.  However, a  conclusive  decision  has  not  been  reached;  it  may  be  that the light capabilities are simply a coincidental trait from a purely structural element. Spicules funnel light deep inside sea sponges.

Source: Wikipedia, Antarctic Field Guide


An itching subject

  • Dog flea SMZ 171 Moticam 2500
Dog fleas are common pests in Europe, Africa and Asia, and are lesser known in North America. They are extremely similar in appearance and behavior to cat fleas, and the two are often times confused. The differences between them are best distinguished through microscopic study. In North America, fleas known as cat fleas affect both cats and dogs.

Fleas extract and consume the blood of host animals in order to survive. Neither cat nor dog fleas leave the host voluntarily and will typically remain with one host throughout their lifespan. However, if dog fleas are forcibly removed from their host, they will locate a new host or return to the original host if possible.

The life cycle of the flea is composed of the egg, larval, pupal and adult stages. Cycle length ranges from several weeks to several months and is largely dependent upon environmental conditions. Fleas lay between four to eight eggs after a meal, with the highest concentrations of laying occurring within the last few days of the female’s life. Unlike the eggs of some other parasites, flea eggs are not sticky and usually fall to the ground immediately upon being laid. Flea eggs hatch into larvae within one to 12 days. Flea larvae are approximately 3 to 5.2 mm long and are semi transparent white in color. The larval stage lasts from four to 18 days, after which larvae spin silken cocoons and enter the pupal stage. The pupal stage may be complete within three days, or it can last as long as one year.

Adult fleas begin searching for food when they emerge from the pupal stage. While fleas are noted for their jumping abilities, they will remain stationery when a suitable host is located. Females begin laying eggs within 48 hours of the first feed, thus beginning the life cycle again.

Source: Orkin


A family existing over 500 million years

  • Foraminifera BA410 BF obj. 10X Moticam 2500
Foraminifera are amoeba-like, single-celled protists (very simple micro-organisms). They have been called 'armored amoebae' because they secrete a tiny shell (test) usually between about a half and one millimeter long. They get their name from the foramen, an opening or tube that interconnects all the chambers of the test. Fossilized tests are found in sediments as old as the earliest Cambrian (about 545 million years ago) and foraminifera can still be found in abundance today, living in marine and brackish waters. Although each foram is just a single cell, they build complex shells around themselves from minerals in the seawater. These shells have accumulated in layers of sediment below the seafloor of the open ocean and  in  regions  where  the  ocean  once  flooded  the  continents  for  millions  of  years.  By examining the shell chemistry of these ancient forams, scientists can learn about Earth's climate  long before humans ever walked the planet and get  insight into how  climate changed in the past.

Sources: Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History,  NERC Science of the Environment


A paper home, why not?  

  • Wasp nest SZM SZM Moticam 2500
  • wespzoology6
Wasps make paper nests. Wasps are expert paper makers, capable of turning raw wood into sturdy  paper  homes.  A  wasp  queen  uses  her  mandibles  to  scrape  bits  of  wood  fiber  from fences, logs, or even cardboard. She then breaks the wood fibers down in her mouth, using saliva and water to weaken them. The wasp flies to her chosen nest site with a mouth full of soft paper pulp. The nest starts off in the spring with the queen building a petiole (a single stalk  from  which  the  nest  hangs)  and  a  single  hexagonal  shaped  cell  at  the  end  of  the petiole,  then  approximate  six  more  cells are formed around  the  centre  one.  The queen  will lay eggs in each cell as it is being constructed. Once these eggs have hatched out and gone through  the  developments  stages  and  pupated  into  adult  wasps,  these  new  worker  wasps take over nest construction and leave the queen solely to lay eggs and control the nest, this from now on is her primary function!

Small creatures of great importance

  • Mouth parts of a female fruitfly BA410 BFF obj. 10X Moticam 2500 stack
  • Fruit fly leg BA410 BFF obj. 20X Moticam 2500 stack
  • Fruit fly female SZM 171 Moticam 2500
  • Fruit fly male SZM 171 Moticam 2500
Fruit flies, Drosophila, are small insects that, as their name implies, often are found in and feed on fruits, although they like other foods, too. They prefer to eat matter that is decaying or fermenting, and  most  varieties are fairly  tiny. They are found around the globe and reproduce extremely quickly, which has given them a significant role in research despite their reputation as a nuisance. Many varieties get into buildings simply by finding small cracks and holes to slip through, but they also get transported from place to place in less-than-ideal produce. People typically can get them under control by keeping homes free of rotting items and by using homemade or purchased traps.

One of the ways to distinguish between fruit fly males and females is to look at the color of the abdomen. A fly's abdomen is made up of many different segments. On a male fly, the last two segments of the abdomen are much darker than the female. The male fruit flies have thick black bands, whereas the females tend to have one darker band on the bottom with a lighter band on top of that.