21 Apr


Nothing can match the deranged excitement elicited by my mate finding a couple of deep blue Paramecium ( a single celled predator) hunting Euglena (a single celled animal that can photosynthesize like a plant) in a sample of water from his pond. As he rightly pointed out, invertebrates are far more exciting than vertebrates simply because they are all around us, all the time; hunting, multiplying and evolving in all their miniature savage beauty. With a glint in his eye he quested further with a small pipette in 10 mls of fresh water ecosystem and rapidly uncovered two pale green Hydra waving their tentacles in the hungry hope of a planktonic snack.

This magical adventure came about on his dining room table all because his eldest daughter had decided to follow in his footsteps to study Zoology and it had become my great pleasure to pass on some of my old research tools to this next generation. The same demonic glint could be seen in her eyes as she chased the Paramecium in my old Russian microscope. Like father like daughter.

I shared three amazing years as an undergraduate with my mate – mostly holding up gigantic rock pool boulders whilst he explored the crevices beneath – “Keep it steady Henk! I think I see a cuckoo wrasse here……and some devonshire cup coral…..don’t move……there is a huge edible crab as well…..”, “The tide’s coming in!” “Yes, yes….just don’t drop that rock on me” – whilst we immersed ourselves in the intricacies of crustacean mouthparts, the feeding habits of periwinkles, calculating the size of dragonfly populations and finding slow worms.

“Won’t you miss the microscopes?” my mate’s younger daughter blithely asked. “No, it’s all in my head now”

Everyone should have the chance to hunt for Paramecium in a drop of pond water – the unicellular equivalent to the Cheetah of the Serengeti Plains. Except Cheetahs can’t reverse spontaneously and achieve top speed in a millisecond, and they are not deep and funky blue. It’s like watching a Zeppelin on amphetamines.

One Response to “Paramecium”

  1. Wes April 21, 2013 at 5:20 pm #

    Can you take pictures of them? Sounds awesome…

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