Dec 22

Hairy kneecap

Our microscopy practical always turns up something new, which is the main reason I enjoy it. This year it was a ciliate called Euplotes patella. This kneecap-shaped critter is a single-celled organism masquerading as a tiny animal. The appendages that look like long hairs or legs are bundles of extra-long cilia called cirri, which it uses to scuttle about like a microscopic woodlouse. The cirri around the front of the cell (top of the image below) are also used to sweep food into a region of its cell membrane that acts like a mouth. Euplotes will eat bacteria, yeast, algae, pretty much anything it can fit into its mouth really: much like me at Christmas.

As Euplotes is quite fast-moving and camera-shy, it was tricky to get a good image. Fortunately, one of my students got a good picture, and kindly agreed to let me license it under Creative Commons: thank you Yikai!

Euplotes patella [CC-BY-SA-4.0 Yikai Feng]

Euplotes patella [CC-BY-SA-4.0 Yikai Feng]

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