Giant blobs of colonial ciliates

Description: My wife and I were taking a walk in the woods and came across a bunch of jelly blobs growing in a pond (top left; arrowheads indicate two blobs). We picked one up and found that there was little obvious structure visible to the naked eye (upper right), but a tightly packed array of green dots just at the surface of the blob was visible with a hand lens or dissecting microscope (bottom left). When we took it to lab we found that the green dots were ciliates which have some really cool behaviors (more on that in a future "spark"). The gel was so clear we couldn't see its edge, and thought the ciliates might be poking well beyond it. We added some sumi ink to try to see the structure (see ). The particles of ink move through the water leaving the gel clear. As you can see (lower right) there appears to be a separate column of gel around each ciliate. As best as we could tell -- before we had to call it a night -- the ciliates don't poke beyond their cylinder of gel. It's possible they were pulled in because of the ink. Looked at in some patches (not shown), the columns of gel appear to be much longer than the ciliates. Maybe it's more like a tangle of spaghetti than a solid blob?

We haven't been able to identify the ciliates for sure yet, but they may be <i>Ophrydium versatile</i> (see ). The linked article has lots of interesting information about the ciliates and symbionts in the jelly blob.

The microscope images were taken with an Olympus SZX7 dissecting microscope and DP71 camera. The ink was Yasutomo black sumi ink. We found them Dec. 13, 2014, and took photos that evening in a pond in eastern North Carolina.

Page creator's name: M. and Y. von Dassow
Page creator's contact info: Through the IGoR contact page

biology ciliates colonial-organisms freshwater protists

Created: 16 Dec 2014 03:58
Updated: 22 Dec 2014 15:03


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