Life in a Drop of Water

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By Rahul Gladwin | February, 2007.

I must mention I’m a proud owner of a Japanese-made Bausch & Lomb KHS microscope and am truly amazed at this instrument. It is made of cast iron, weighs over 18lb, and all the knobs and controls have a solid feel to them. It is equipped with a WF 10X eyepiece and 4x, 10x, 40x and 100x (oil) B&L objectives. This scope is perfect for medical school classes I’ll be enrolling in next year. One day, during my free time, I used my glass pipette, removed some water from the plant sitting on my study table, and placed the contents on a slide. I was surprised by what I saw: a wide variety of phyla swimming in a drop of water!

The first thing that caught my attention were the Rotaria, a type of Rotifer – small aquatic multi-cellular animals. Armed with a pair of circular cilia that spin at super speeds, these creatures pull nearby water and its contents directly into their little mouths while conveniently latching onto the glass slide, and sniffing at water around them. If they get bored, they crawl to a different location to continue their sniffing and cilia spinning tactics; a perfect example of self-motivated miniature machinery - designed by God. Furthermore, when I accidentally shook the microscope, I noticed the rotaria embraced themselves and played dead for about 5 seconds. When they noticed it wasn’t an earthquake, they resumed their activities. And you know what’s cute about them? They lack brains.

I noticed another creature, also from the Rotifer family, called the Euchlanis; full of energy and life, these creatures jet across the eyepiece at high speeds. They resemble miniature manta rays and even have tails they use as rudders. They’re much smaller than the Rotaria and pretty fast swimmers – they swim up and down, forward and backward, and even sideways. Their drive is food, but they like to have fun too and reminded me of fishes. And yes, they lack brains also.

There was another larger snake-like creature that I couldn’t identify.

As I was having fun observing this miniature community of animals, I noticed these creatures started behaving erratically and gathered toward the center of the water drop. I looked closely and saw the water drop was drying up, and was “deepest” in the center of the slide. These creatures had sensed their impending death; I would be seeing them die under the microscope and I was pretty excited about it. The speeds of movements of these creatures became sluggish, and with their final “breaths”, they picked “comfortable” positions to die in, and then, they died.

I’m wondering what the world is like to these watery creatures. How do they sense hunger? And pain? And vibrations? And death? What motivates them to live? Do they realize they’re alive? Do they have souls?

Perhaps, we may never know......

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