Cyanobacteria are aquatic and photosynthetic bacteria that have been hugely important in shaping the course of evolution and the content of the Earth’s atmosphere. The oxygen rich atmosphere upon which we depend, was generated by vast numbers of newly arisen photosynthetic cyanobacteria during the Archaean and Proterozoic Eras. Before this time, the atmosphere had a very different chemistry and was unsuitable for life as we know it today. The other striking contribution of the cyanobacteria to the evolution of life is the origin of plants. The chloroplast, the organelle within the cells of plants which carries out photosynthesis, actually derives from a cyanobacterium living within the plant’s cells. At some point in the late Proterozoic, or in the early Cambria periods, cyanobacteria became resident within eukaryote cells, making food for the eukaryote host in return for a home, in an event known as endosymbiosis.
Shortly before Johann Wolfgang von Goethe published Die Metamorphose der Pflanzen in 1790, he engaged with the concept of the Archetypal Plant, or the Urpflanze. Whilst there is no reference to the Urpflanze in his book, it is described in his letters to Charlotte von Stein sent by Goethe during his stay in Palermo, Italy.
“Seeing such a variety of new and renewed forms, my old fancy suddenly came back to mind: among this multitude might I not discover the Primal Plant (Urpflanze)?
Die Urpflanze is Goethe’s imagined plant which contains embedded within it, the potential to generate all possible future forms of plant life. Because of their role in the origin of all plant life, cyanobacteria must be one vital component of Goethe’s imagined species.
Bacteria can utilize many different things as vectors in order to promote their transmission. Insects, water, food, coughs and sneezes, sexual contact, and rain are just a few examples. The mobile phone appears to be no exception this rule. As part of BMS1035 Practical and Biomedical Bacteriology, an undergraduate module that I run, I get the students to to imprint their mobile phones onto bacteriological growth media so that we might determine what they might carry. From these results, it seems that the mobile phone doesn’t just remember telephone numbers, but also harbours a history of our personal and physical contacts such as other people, soil, etc.The images here are from the latest version of this experiment performed by the University of Surrey Level 4 UG students in 2014.
Rotifers, which are also known as wheel animals were first described by Rev. John Harris in 1696, and later by Anton van Leeuwenhoek in 1703. When they feed, the coronal cilia create a current that sweeps food into the mouth. This then passes into a chewing pharynx, which has powerful muscular walls and microscopic calcified jaw-like structures called trophi.
Here a Rotifer has been exposed to indian ink which it interacts with to create a dynamic work of art. There is also a deeper message here, in that the basis of indian ink is soot, a micropolltant, and the pristine Rotifer can be clearly seen to become brown as it accumulates the soot particles. Anything that feeds on this Rotifer will also become contaminated. The art then, becomes a striking demonstration of how pollutants can enter an ecology, and become concentrated within it.
Here as an artist might move paints across a canvas, the animalcule Volvox aureus creates dynamic art, as it moves watercolours within its own watery medium, and according to its own microscopic whims. Babies, Monkeys, Elephants, and now Protozoa it seems, can all “paint”
I’ve worked scientifically and artistically with bacterial bioluminescence for over 25 years but I still never get bored of experiencing it. Prepping for an installation, an incubator room illuminated with Photobacterium phosporeum, you could easily read a book under this biological light. Sublime!
Whenever/Whatever we touch, we leave behind a normally invisible residue. Finger prints fatty traces of contact, can be developed and can also incriminate. Here I touched a microscope slide with my index finger and observed the microscopic droplets of my skin oils, that make up the finger print, using DIC Microscopy.