Field of Science

Sunday Protist - Assorted forams

I kind of got distracted while writing up a long post about ***** (you can wait until it actually comes out, probably next week! =P), so I'll do another short one for today. Also, a giant hint for the Mystery Micrograph, since y'all are taking so long. (another hint - I first heard of it in Ball GH 1968 "Organisms living on and in protozoa", in Research in Protozoology (ed. TT Chen); ok, I'll stop bragging about my fledgling old protistology book collection- hey, have I mentioned AC Stokes 1888? Got that for 2$ at the library discard sale... /derail)

Here we go, some random foraminifera (basic intro here):

Inspiration for a sci-fi novel spaceship? Tubulogenerina; source here, along with more forams among other things

I may do a more thorough write-up on forams later, but I don't have AO Roger's books here (and the library is still closed), and it's practically impossible to write anything intelligent about foram biology without them. Most of the literature on forams, which is quite large by protistological standards, tends to be from a paleontological/geological perspective. It's not so easy to find information on their biology, especially on the cellular level (people seem to prefer treating them with some gas or metal or confiscating a nutrient, and then measuring population-level responses; perhaps because that way you can avoid dealing with the microscopic level of things)

So a few more pictures instead:

Fossil Amphycoryna scalaris, Uni Southampton gallery of foram SEMs

Calcarina hispida; site contains really a really awesome gallery, the best I've seen so far!

Some can get quite large (bar = 1mm) like this Psammatodendron arborescens from

Nature's concrete? Psammosphaera fusca, again from

A really nice pic of a foram shell (~1mm wide) from Snail's Tales (which you should all visit, btw. At least to remind ourselves from time to time that slugs and snails actually exist o_O)

Before we forget that these things were once alive too. The 'needles' are thin pseudopodia (filopodia) extending from the organism in its shell. Some keep symbiotic algae with them; in some species, during the day, the algae are transported to the tips of the filopodia where they can photosynthesise, and drawn back in for the night (aww!). And some have even bothered to make little 'windows' in their shells to allow light to reach inside. Here we have Globigerina, from here.

Lastly, I found us the coolest apple pie ever made in the history of mankind:

Forams made out of marzipan (and there is not a single word of that I don't like!) (Hannes Grobe at Wikimedia Commons)

PS: You know how searching for information on one thing can lead you to come across interesting tidbits on something else? I randomly came across this paper:
JO Corliss 1974 Taxon Time for Evolutionary Biologists to Take More Interest in Protozoan Phylogenetics?

"Darwin, as someone has recently commented (H. Sandon, unpublished MS), wrote "On the Origin of Species" without any mention of protozoa, and evolutionists ever since have followed his example. Scarcely a decade ago, Simpson (1961) matter-of-factly concluded that for the protists "evolutionary classification is not yet practicable. . ." and thus "they do not concern us in this book," his volume on principles of animal taxonomy and classification." (p497)
Things don't change very quickly in academia, do they? (even in the era of a relatively well-sorted protist phylogeny!) Funny how what Darwin wrote, and failed to write, has such an impact on evolutionary biology even today, [almost exactly] 150 years later. Not that I have any issues with Darwin, but should we really base much of our research planning on 19th century work?


  1. Oooh...those pictures are beautiful. Especially the cake! The closest I've got to anything like that was when a friend of ours was making bread, and we decided to make it into animal shapes, and given that I was there they decided to make as many model organisms as possible...

    We got rat, frog, fish and (on my insistance) E. coli. We also managed a squid, a clam and a hedgehog, as well as (impressively) a giant aligator.

    An old protozology book collection sounds *awesome*. The most I've got is a second edition Alberts The Cell, which has some pretty hillarious chapters on mitochondria.

  2. I keep looking at these photos and back to the Mandelbulbs that have made some recent tech sites and marveling at some of the similarities of forms.

    Was talking to a friend today about the concept of "nothing in biology makes sense except in light of evolution" and feel that the same is pretty much true of fractal geometry. I think if we poke at the genome long enough we'll tease it out.

    Still working at that micrograph. I haven't taken this latest hint into consideration yet. But you should be proud that every google image search I conduct for protists leads me back to you sooner or later.


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