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An Extraordinary Time-Lapse Captures the Microscopic Development of a Single Cell into a Newt

February 7, 2019

Kate Sierzputowski

In Becoming, a time-lapse film by Jan van IJken (previously), a single cell splits. Then it splits again, and again, and again, morphing and quivering as new quadrants continually appear and divide. The cell belongs to an alpine newt, and during most of its transition from a single cell zygote to hatched larva it looks remarkably like a sunny-side up egg. The film’s rapid timeline condenses four weeks of growth into six minutes, presenting a speedy and awe-inspiring glimpse at how we all begin.

“I wanted to capture the origin of life,” van IJken tells Colossal. “What is particularly interesting I think, is that the basics of embryonic development are the same for all animals, including us. I think the way we develop is a true miracle. In my film you can see individual cells move to the place where they belong in the embryo. How is this possible? It is all managed by a precise internal clockwork in each individual cell.”

Van IJken used time-lapse photography and video in combination with a trinocular microscope to precisely observe the details of the newt’s development. You can view more of his work, including a trailer for his first film Facing Animals, on Vimeo.

 

 

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