Field of Science

Scaled protists and bloated distractions

Ok, I was gonna just post this picture as filler, and then suddenly got sucked into the microbial biogeography debate – you know, "is everything everywhere?" etc. So I was going to write up a quick blurb on that, but it somehow grew out of control. As I don't have time for such epic digressions at this moment, esp w a promised post quite overdue, amidst other stuff, I'll just shelve that for later and simply post the pretty picture instead. Enjoy this lineup of protists scaled to the size of a pinhead:

How many protists can dance atop a pin? (Finlay 2002 Science)
I'm going to try to vaguely identify them, from left to right: Chaos sp.; Stentor sp.; some random amoebozoan; Amoeba sp.; Loxodes? man I suck at this; Bursaria sp.?; Paramecium sp.; Mayorella sp.?; a euglyphid; another bloody ciliate; Strombidium; Difflugia-like thing; Euplotes; Ophryscolex-like; heterotrophic euglenid; heterotrophic euglenid again (Peranema); het eugl (Entosiphon or Petalomonas), Chlamydomonas? too small; ?, pedinellid-like thing?; Bodo, non-descript small unknown flagellate? Bodo., last two look like those tiny non-photosynthetic stramenopiles everyone ignores.

This tangent was initiated by working on that long overdue post, by the way. Apparently, one graph is enough to lead me on a massive multi-window-tab-explosion journey into the wild unknowns, even if it involves ecology. Maybe this is why it's taking me like four months to write a single freaking chapter. I'm not sure the free version of Mendeley was meant to handle hundreds upon hundreds of references. Let's see what it does once I hit a thousand, which will be soon. At least researching flagellar root apparatuses doesn't typically lead me to Hooke's description of the first cell, unlike one particular reader here =P (who needs to update, by the way...)

Oh, and submit to the carnivals! The more posts I have, the lest posts I'd have to fake, and the less I must rickroll you with fake links...

Mystery Micrograph #25

The last one was cracked by 'Anonymous', suspiciously close to a well-known dinoflagellate lab... it was a Warnowiid ocelloid, which is pretty much the coolest thing ever. I shall definitely blog about it someday. Been procrastinating with it because I'm not sure I can do it justice. In short, it's an image-forming camera eye...of a unicellular alga. If only these things weren't present at about one individual per cubic metre of seawater...argh!

Onto the next one. Tell me what's going on here:

TEM; 2 - 2300x 3 - 3400x. To be referenced later.

Gluttonous amoeba

Was looking through some freshwater pond samples one day, and saw this amoeba (Polychaos?) which has managed to engulf an entire Phacus (a photosynthetic euglenid)!

How it managed to ensnare the Phacus with its pseudopodia is beyond me. Phacus is perfectly capable of swimming away. Then again, amoebae are actually kinda scary...

Or what if this euglenid wasn't actually being digested, and would have eventually become a permanent endosymbiont, forming a brand new lineage of photosynthetic amoebozoans with tertiary plastids? And just as this miracle was about to happen, some asshole biologist captures the poor amoeba and kills it. Oh well.

Call for submissions for MolBiol Carnival! (and CoE)

Have you written about fancy little molecules doing something biological lately? Have you written about biologists doings something molecular? Do you have pretty gels to show off, in a polite manner as to not offend those of us who chronically fail at PCR? Have you aligned some proteins into pretty super-neat colourful blocks screaming OCD! to the rest of the world? And written about it?

If so, you should submit your post to the high Impact Factor MolBiol Carnival. That way, not only will your wonderful exhibit be hosted amid members of the world's awesomest kingdom, but you'd reach a much wider readership than you would through Obscure Journal of Experimental Molecular Shit No-one Understands Anyway (Aka Journal of HAHAHA YOU'RE NOT IN CANCER RESEARCH SO WE DON'T CARE ABOUT YOU) And you thought that post was going to Nature, eh? What are you, an undergrad summer intern? ;-)
You can even cross-submit to the Carnival of Evolution, as evolution cannot be properly studied without molecular biology (Ha, suck on that, ecologists!*)

Was all of the above too much text for you? Too confusing? Lemme rephrase that:

CLICK HERE and SUBMIT YOUR POST to MolBiol Carnival NOW. Please ;) Scheduled for 01 Nov, 2010, here; please have the submissions in by 31 Oct. Make 'em spooky if you'd like.

Are you happy now, Alejandro?

*I'm perfectly cool with ecologists. I even have a friend who is one. It's kind of like the token 'gay friends' of flaming fundie Republicans. Except that I'm not actually an ecologist** myself. ;-)

** Please don't tell my cell biology peeps I'm applying to a graduate program with "ecology" in its title...I would get shunned by the entire field.

Speaking of evolution, Carnival of Evolution is alive and kicking too. You should submit. Next one is also 01 Nov at Byte Size Biology, and even though it won't be as cool as ours, it will still be totally awesome and the perfect place for you evolution posts.

Incidentally, I should probably write some real posts. Haven't done that in a while...

Cute Peritrich and random update

As alluded to earlier, I've been swept away by midterms and applications. Now that the midterms are done, got the rest of the ever-growing to-do list to take care of. Oh dear. Currently working on: a chapter, research proposal for fellowship, applications and that long-overdue write-up of Mike Lynch's seminar. Fear not, I have not forgotten. Just haven't figured out a way to reproduce by fragmentation yet...

So enjoy a random pretty Peritrich ciliate (think Vorticella) - Apocarchesium, a sizeable clump of vorticella-like bodies atop a single contractile stalk:

Forest of trumpets, on a single stalk. Scalebar - 100µm. (Norf & Foissner 2010 JEM)

And since this paper is by the great Wilhelm Foissner, it includes the obligatory sexy drawings:

Everything you need to know to identify Apocarchesium. (Norf & Foissner 2010 JEM)

That one's actually modest by his standards. There's some truly amazing descriptive drawings by him out there. Possibly worthy of a whole post. Eventually. Especially since he has described a freaking insane number of various ciliates, and possibly other protists. But before that, prior obligations.

Meanwhile, I like to recommend this awesome NAS Sackler Colloquium talk by Julius Lukeš accompanying Lukeš et al. 2009 PNAS on convergent evolution between Alveolates (namely, dinoflagellates) and Euglenozoans. Go watch and savour the amazing genomic evolutionary madness contained therein.

Sunday Protist - Ciliate-in-a-basket: Dictyocysta

Crazy days this week (and possibly next), so a short one. This tintinnid ciliate has a particularly beautiful lorica:

SEM of Dictyocysta in its lorica. Scalebar = 40µm (Agatha 2010 J Euk Microbiol)

Tintinnids construct their loricas out of proteins and polysaccharides, and some species attach matter from their surroundings. There's a few interesting stories involving them, but I still need to finish the post on that. Tintinnids are only very distantly related to Folliculinids, and both evolved their loricae independently from each other. Several other lineages of ciliates also construct tests, but Tintinnids and Folliculinids are the most prominent ones. And have cool names.

Two midterms this week, midterm and lab exam the week after, writing my GREs in three weeks, blankly staring at grad school apps and trying to find a way to justify my existence in 500 words or less for the personal statements (You must be so jealous of me, I know). Also need to finish a bunch of stuff for work – was too distracted this past week.

Blogging-wise, I'm hosting the upcoming MolBiol Carnival; you should submit early and often so that I don't have to fake data posts. Faking posts is baaaad. Don't make do it. Here's the link to save me from immoral temptations: LINK. <-- click there and submit to the carnival. (intentionally ambiguous, mwahaha) I'll also be writing up a very interesting seminar talk involving molecular biol, mutation, genomes, introns, popgen and really cool evolution stories. The topics are a bit intense, so it may take me a while to understand it in a way that's not outright wrong, but very soon there'll be a continuation of my non-adaptive evolution series. To get you more excited, the speaker in question is Michael Lynch!

Oh, and I will finish Part III of In Defense of Constructive Neutral Evolution as soon as I can get around to it. Apparently some of you actually do care, so I must return the favour =D

Not enough time in the day to get everything done. Damn you, physics! (I'd imagine that slowing down Earth's revolutions would have drastic side effects wiping out all cumbersome macroscopic life in an instant. Prokaryotes, and possibly even unicellular protists, wouldn't mind much though).