Field of Science

Phylomon, Protémon and "5 favourite organisms" meme

David Ng writes about the sad state of biodiversity/biology/nature education of kids when they obsess over fantasy instead, being unsatiated by what they know of the real world; this manifests itself in the form of Pokémon, etc. As a counter"attack", he suggests making Pokémon-esque Phylomon cards, perhaps eventually ending up with game-like rules and a way to reach out and educate children about the awesome diversity that exists far beyond the meagre attempts of human imagination. (ok, the hyperbolic assertions are my take). I think that would be awesome, especially if we could focus more on the world we cannot see so easily -- namely the microbes, aliens from a different scale.

A while ago my friend and I were discussing something similar, and 'Protémon' popped into my head. Yes, we could make a card collection/battle game starring various protists as characters. After all, since evolution has been around way longer than H.sapiens, its 'imaginative power' has expanded far beyond our own in that time. Of course 'intelligent design' via still-limited forsight can give an edge in creativity over non-human (ie non-cultural/linguistic) evolution, the damn thing's got about 3.0-3.5 billion years on us; there's still no way we could ever win!

Meanwhile, I randomly threw together this doodle in about 20min: fantasy anime videogame meet protistology. I swear no exogenous hallucinogenic chemicals were involved in this piece; the endogenous ones suffice, apparently...

Actually, in this particular screencap our protagonist is apparently ignoring the minor crap and charging straight at the boss: Cavalier-Smith 2006 Biol Direct (to the left of the drawing...)

I have class in 8h... Wish I had the speed-enhancing Stylonychia(-ish) protémon in real life to help me get to that class. Or a flying alarm clock shaped like Troglocorys. Damn I wish I were only ~100μm tall. On a second thought, maybe not...

And David Ng wants us to form a meme around his post:
"think of your five favourite organisms and why, suggest it for the Phylomon art community and pass it on?"
So consider yourselves tagged!

Ok, I'll do this one: (note, subject to change; I don't really have favourites, except for the first one)
1. Erythropsidinium (and other Warnowiid dinoflagellates) -- Unicellular dinoflagellate with a fucking IMAGE-FORMING CAMERA EYE. Need I say more?

2. Oxytricha (ciliate) -- Complicated bi-nucleate genome system, scrambled genes, complex morphogenesis, 'walks' and also really cute!

3. Saccinobaculus (oxymonad) -- It moves by thrashing around it's internal bundle of microtubules (axostyle), inside itself. Snake-in-a-bag. See clip in this post

4a. Myxomycetes -- plasmodial slime moulds. Although to be honest, they can easily compete with Dicty[ostelium; a cellular slime mould], but something about a large multinucleate-yet-unicellular thing of bright goop is just awesome, despite having seen plenty of

4b. Phaeodarians -- (couldn't pick between these two) Go to Coelodiceras. Now, imagine the living organism -- a giant spikey ball of axopodia, sucking in and devouring anything they can touch, including small metazoans (eg. copepods). Oh, did I mention this thing is unicellular, and uninucleate? And big?

5. Arabidopsis -- It feeds me and pays my bills. Also, I'm still a cell/developmental biologist, I swear!

Now what are yours?


  1. Aargh! So many organisms -- how to choose?!

    The first candidates to spring to mind are the ones that I'm working on: Malawimonas, Ancyromonas, Amastigomonas, Breviata. But I spent two years playing with Saccinobaculus, which is an astounding bug, and I would be remiss to ignore Apusomonas, which is easily the cutest thing that I have ever seen under a microscope. (The opportunity to test the conviction that non-geeks would agree with me has, sadly, yet to arrive.) And then there are plenty of others, the ones you list (well, aside from Arabidopsis) being a fantastic starting point (well, and I think I would choose Euplotes as my representative ciliate). Really, the reason why I am studying eukaryotic diversity is because I cannot make up my mind on questions like these!

  2. Oooh...five favourite organisms...I'll go with my five favouite bacteria then, seeing as I'm sure dolphins and mole rats have already been suggested:

    1) E. coli. It's got to be. Worlds most studied organism, how could it *not* feature.

    2) Bdellovibrio bacteriovous. It's a bacteria that lives INSIDE other baacteria and is thus awesome for many reasons.

    3) Stromatilites. OK, these aren't technically bacteria, their large 'mats' of bacterial growth all layered up. Basically like a giant bacterial city.

    4)TNT-metabolising Pseudomonas species. They EAT explosives. Don't get much cooler than that.

    5)Joint fifth to Streptomyces coelicolor and Baccilus Subtilis; because I'm working on strep at the moment and I really *want* to end up working on B. subilis in the near future. So my loyalties are torn.

  3. btw, I thought you said you were no good at drawing! That picture is AWESOME. My one attempt at drawing E. coli was basically and eye surrounded by a circle. With flagella.

  4. Streptomyces is bloody awesome -- a multicellular prokaryote!

    Although that shouldn't be too shocking, on a second thought. Nuclei aren't really a prerequisite to multicellularity...

    Have you heard of epulopiscium?

    @Opisthokont: Euplotes is ADORABLE! =D I love watching it whirl its cirri around on the slide...OMG so cute it makes me talk like a total valley girl ditz!

    Do you have videos of Apusomonas?

    And I had difficulty picking the 5 too, so I did it semi-randomly. Except for Warnowiids. Nothing, ever, can beat unicellular dinoflagellates WITH IMAGE-FORMING CAMERA EYES!


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