Filamentous Algae

The long and slimy filaments of green algae that often cover the surface of stagnant ponds (and now blooming in Lake Erie) may be repulsive to the naked eye, but some can be quite attractive under the microscope. Here are an unremarkable algae and a strand of Spirogyra, generally considered to be the most beautiful of the filamentous algae.

Filamentous Alga – Genus: Unknown
Filamentous Alga – Genus: Unknown
Filamentous Alga – Genus: Spirogyra
Filamentous Alga – Genus: Spirogyra

Mold – Rhizopus

Common names can be useful in casual circumstances, but can also be the cause of much confusion and many inaccuracies. Many of the molds that grow on bread belong to the genus Rhizopus and so we call all species of Rhizopus “Bread Mold” – even though there are over 100 different species of Rhizopus and not all of them grow on bread.

Another problem is that the name Bread Mold promotes the false assumption that molds can be classified by the type of material that they grow on. If Bread Mold grows on bread, then the mold that grows on tomatoes must be different, perhaps Tomato Mold. And the mold that grows on plums must be Plum Mold – and on, and on, and on. Even though it is so prevalent that most “household” molds are likely to be Rhizopus, we would never refer to them as Bread Mold unless they were actually growing on bread.

Having said all that – this lovely specimen of Rhizopus was not found growing on bread or on anything else, it was in a tub of rainwater.

Mold Spore Case – Genus: Rhizopus
Mold Spore Case – Genus: Rhizopus

 

Tardigrade (Water Bear)

Tardigrades are fascinating little creatures with a phylum all their own. If they dry out they go into a state of “suspended animation” but can be revived at a later date by the simple addition of water. It would be interesting to see how many times a single Tardigrade could go through that process before it failed to reanimate. Of course, there are many variables that would enter into the equation: The length of the active and inactive periods, the intake of food during the active state, and numerous other factors related to both the Tardigrade itself and its environment.

Water Bear - Phylum: Tardigrada – Class: Eutardigrada
Water Bear – Phylum: Tardigrada – Class: Eutardigrada

Lunar Features: Rilles

I took this image to record the many surface cracks (rilles) in this region near the center of the visible side of the Moon. The most prominent ones, pierced in the middle by the small crater Hyginus, are sections of the crust that have sunk between two parallel faults. The less obvious ones surrounding the crater Triesnecker, are probably collapsed lava tubes. Finding rilles, and imaging them, is great sport for many lunar enthusiasts.

Network of rilles at Hyginus and Triesnecker
Network of rilles at Hyginus and Triesnecker

Protozoan – Tetrahymena

One way of classifying protozoans is by their method of locomotion. Amoeboids move around by changing their shape and “oozing” in the direction they want to go. Flagellates swim by using one or two whip-like organs. Ciliates are covered with fine hair-like structures that propel the organism with a paddling motion. Tetrahymena are common ciliates. Some species are divided into seven distinct sexes that can mate in 21 different combinations.

Ciliated Protozoan – Genus: Tetrahymena
Ciliated Protozoan – Genus: Tetrahymena

Eastern Garter Snake

This is a snake that is very common in our area; the Eastern Garter Snake. We usually think of all snakes as having pupils that are vertical slits. Some do, of course, but only the venomous ones. Non-venomous snakes, like this friendly fella, have round pupils.

Eastern Garter Snake - Thamnophis sirtalis
Eastern Garter Snake – Thamnophis sirtalis

Airplane & Moon

If you take enough pictures of the Moon, and live close to an airport, sooner or later you are going to get one of these. The same principle applies when taking any type of nature photo. Take enough of them and you will capture predators and their prey, insects mating, cells dividing or any number of images that might be called the result of luck – when actually they are the product of persistence.

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Yellow-bellied Sapsucker

There are critters that have common names so popular (for whatever reason) that they almost become jokes. I don’t think there is a bird that has a higher giggle-factor than a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker. So much so that one begins to wonder if there really is such a bird.

This is a juvenile female. Adults have a yellow breast and the males have red about the head and throat. They are a type of woodpecker and this one is not only digging for insects, it will also lick up any sap that happens to form around the hole it creates – so its name is well deserved.

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker – Sphyrapicus varius
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker – Sphyrapicus varius

Goundhog

Groundhogs are one of the few animals that really hibernate. Hibernation is not just a deep sleep. It is actually a deep coma, where the body temperature drops to a few degrees above freezing, the heart barely beats, the blood scarcely flows, and breathing nearly stops. Although the definition of hibernation is slowly changing to include bears, technically they do not hibernate but enter a state called torpor.

Groundhog - Marmota monax
Groundhog – Marmota monax

Virginia Opossum

There are plenty of myths about the natural world; but “playing possum” is not one of them. Virginia Opossums really do “play dead” when threatened or injured. It is an involuntary reaction much like fainting and can last anywhere from 40 minutes to several hours.

This critter is not “playing”. If it were, its lips would be curled back to expose its teeth. At such times they also emit a foul odor. Another interesting fact about opossums that has nothing to do with “playing dead” – they are immune to the venom of pit vipers, including rattlesnakes.

Virginia Opossum - Didelphis virginiana
Virginia Opossum – Didelphis virginiana