fungi

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Photography Science

Tainted with Manufactured Objects, Slime Molds and Spores Grow Into Unnaturally Striking Compositions

September 24, 2021

Grace Ebert

All images © Dasha Plesen, shared with permission

Moscow-based artist and mold enthusiast Daria Fedorova intervenes in natural decomposition processes, accentuating textures and colors and pushing the boundaries of science and art. The artist, who works as Dasha Plesen, laces petri dishes with various bacterias and other organisms before placing extra elements like fluffy balls, sugars, and sprinkles in the container. These manufactured additions impede the growths to produce myriad shades and structures and cultivate otherworldly compositions of unnaturally saturated colors, patches of fuzz, and flared coils of slime all within in a single vessel.

Forgoing antibiotics or other treatments that would save the fungi and spores from ruin, Plesen’s works take between three and four weeks to materialize. She tells Colossal that the ongoing project began with “the idea of microbiological mapping of our surroundings,” explaining:

We are all swimming in the ocean of tiny spores and organisms, breathing them in, and carrying them on the top of our skin and inside the body. I was interested in this parallel between the physical world we can see and touch and also another physical world, which also presents, but is kind of metaphysical, invisible, somewhere between the air layers, vibrations, energies, nature.

Whether displaying stacked rows of spores or a bubbly rim, the resulting studies are ripe with questions about human imposition, the artificial, cyclical processes, and the inherent beauty of decay. Explore a larger collection of Plesen’s works on Behance and Instagram. (via Trendland)

 

 

 



Photography Science

A Spectacularly Colorful Shot of an Oak Leaf Tops Nikon's 2021 Photomicrography Competition

September 13, 2021

Grace Ebert

By Jason Kirk, trichome (white appendages) and stomata (purple pores) on a southern live oak leaf. All images coutesy of Nikon Small World, shared with permission

Unless they were under a microscope, it would be difficult to see the shimmery barbs of a louse claw or cracks running through a single piece of table salt. The winning entries of the 47th annual Nikon Small World Photomicrography Competition unveil these otherwise imperceptible features, showing the unique textures, colors, and shapes in stunning detail. We’ve chosen some of our favorite images below—these include the crystal-like webbing of a slime mold captured by Allison Pollack (previously), the first-prize winning glimpse of an oak leaf by Jason Kirk, and the kaleidoscopic head of a tick revealed by doctors Tong Zhang and Paul Stoodley—and you can find more from this year’s competition on the contest’s site and Instagram.

 

By Frank Reiser, rear leg, claw, and respiratory trachea of a louse (Haematopinus suis)

By Alison Pollack, slime mold (Arcyria pomiformis)

By Saulius Gugis, table salt crystal

By Martin Kaae Kristiansen, filamentous strands of Nostoc cyanobacteria captured inside a gelatinous matrix

By Sébastien Malo, vein and scales on a butterfly wing (Morpho didius)

By Jan van IJken, water flea (Daphnia) carrying embryos and peritrichs

By Dr. Tong Zhang and Dr. Paul Stoodley, head of a tick

By Oliver Dum, the proboscis of a housefly (Musca domestica)

 

 



Photography Science

Fantastic Macro Photos Reveal the Microscopic World of Mushrooms and Slime Molds

May 10, 2021

Grace Ebert

Lachnum virgineum. All images © Alison Pollack, shared with permission

Alison Pollack’s preferred subjects are the tiny, inconspicuous organisms that are difficult to spot without a trained eye and microscope. The California-based photographer documents the minuscule fungi that spring from leaves and bits of bark with an extreme macro lens, exposing the rarely visible iridescent speckles, pockmarks, and feathered tissues that cover their fruiting bodies. “My goal is to reveal to people tiny mushrooms and slime molds that they might otherwise never see, or may never even have heard of,” she tells Colossal. “And also to reveal the beautiful intricate detail in these organisms.”

Although her earlier images captured the fleshy fungi in spectacular detail, Pollack has spent the last two years getting even closer to her subjects—which are often less than a millimeter tall—by using a microscope lens that magnifies her findings up to 20 times their actual size. The resulting images document even the smallest features, like individual spores, the veiny web structure encasing them, and the distinct texture and color of each organism.

Find Pollack on Instagram and Facebook to see what she spots next and to order prints of her photos. You also might enjoy this documentary about the vast underground network of mycelium that’s tied to all life on Earth.

 

Physarum album

Didymium. All images © Alison Pollack, shared with permission

Top left: Badhamia utricularis. Top right: Typhula on a decomposing leaf. Bottom left: Polycephalomyces tomentosus on Trichia botrytis. Bottom right: Candlesnuff fungus (Xylaria hypoxylon)

Eyelash Cup Fungus (Scutellinia)

Top: Pilobolus. Bottom left: Comatricha. Bottom right: Badhamia utricularis on Stereum

Arcyria pomiformis

Left: Mycena acicula. Right: Lamproderma

Cribraria cancellata

 

 



Photography

Iridescent Glass Worms, Fruiting Slime Molds, and a Glowing Eel Larvae Top Close-Up Photography Contest

October 7, 2020

Grace Ebert

Image © Andrei Savitsky, cupoty.com. Winner: Micro. “Glass worms can vary in length from about half an inch to two inches. On the right side of this image you can see the large tracheal bubbles that serve as hydrostatic organs (or swim bladders). These bubbles allow the larva to keep its horizontal position in the water column, while also helping to regulate the depth of its immersion. The bubbles are covered with dark pigment cells that can resize – if the cells expand due to absorption of light, the tracheal bubbles heat up and increase in volume, reducing the weight of the larva and causing it to float up. To create the picture here I made a panorama of eight frames, each of which was focus stacked. To make the image as detailed (and aesthetically pleasing) as I possible I used darkfield and polarisation techniques.” All images shared with permission

Captured around the globe, the winning shots in the 2020 Close-Up Photographer Of The Year glimpse some of nature’s most fascinating details, from the organs inside a shimmering glass worm to slime molds bursting with fruit. Dr. Galice Hoarau, an evolutionary biologist living in Bodø, Norway, took the top prize for his image (shown below) of a serpentine eel larva spotted during a blackwater dive.

In its second year, the annual contest garnered more than 6,500 entries from 52 countries. Photojournalists Tracy and Dan Calder, a wife and husband duo based in the United Kingdom, launched the competition in 2018 to “encourage photographers to slow down, enjoy their craft, and make long-lasting connections with the world around them.” Explore some of Colossal’s favorite close-up, micro, and macro shots below, and dive into the top 100 images on CUPOTY’s site. (via Design You Trust)

 

Image © Galice Hoarau, cupoty.com. Animals and Overall Winner of Close-up Photographer of the Year. “I spotted this eel larva off the island of Lembeh (Indonesia) during a blackwater dive. Blackwater diving is essentially diving at night in the open ocean, usually over deep or very deep water. Divers are surrounded by darkness, with only a lit downline as a visual reference. Peering through the darkness with your torch can be quite stressful the first time you do it, but it gets fascinating quickly. What makes blackwater diving so magical is the abundance of rarely seen planktonic creatures you spot as they take part in one of the largest daily migrations of any animal on Earth. After sunset, small pelagic animals (like this larva) rise close to the surface to feed where the sunlight has allowed planktonic algae to grow. At sunrise, they dive into the depths and stay down there during the day to escape predators.”

 

Image © Barry Webb, cupoty.com. 2nd Place: Plants & Fungi. “This image is a stack of 34 focus bracketed images. It was taken in February 2020 in a mixed woodland in Buckinghamshire, UK. It shows a line of 2.5mm high, fruiting bodies of the slime mold Metatrichia floriformis growing on a decaying beech trunk. I always use a x10 loupe with built-in LEDs to examine slime molds and to help me pick out the optimal composition. Initially, I liked this group because it showed different stages in their development. But when I looked through the magnifier, I noticed that the fruiting bodies resembled people standing in a line – the holes in the stems looked like little legs!”

 

Image © Juan Jesús González Ahumada, cupoty.com. 2nd Place: Insects. “When night falls, water scorpions rise to the surface of the pond and begin to interact with fellow water-dwelling creatures. While they might have a sinister appearance, these insects belong to the genus of bed bugs and aren’t actually dangerous. The caudal tube that helps them to breathe (and resembles a tail) is harmless. The pincers, however, help them to grab their prey, which they then kill with their beak. To show their wonderful outlines, and reduce them to silhouettes, I placed two flashlights under two water scorpions in the pond.”

 

Image © Chien Lee, cupoty.com. 3rd Place: Insects. “Bioluminescence is abundant in the Bornean rainforest at night, a feature that becomes evident as soon as you turn off your headlamp, but few organisms emit a light as strong as Lamprigera beetles. Close relatives of fireflies, Lamprigera differ in that the females are wingless and produce a bright and steady greenish light from the tip of their abdomen. During a night walk in the mountains of southern Sarawak, I found this large specimen crawling through low vegetation, presumably on the hunt for snails, their preferred prey. To capture the bright continuous trail of light from its abdomen, I used a long exposure as it made its way along a stick, coupled with a single rear-sync flash.”

 

Image © Csaba Daroczi, cupoty.com. 2nd Place: Animals. “I was preparing to take pictures of bogbean (Menyanthes) at the Turjanos nature conservation area near Kisőrös, Hungary, when I glimpsed this composition in the marshland. I carefully set up my tripod, and prayed for the spider not to move. It allowed me a few pictures before disappearing into the foliage.”

 

Image © Giacomo Redaelli, cupoty.com. 2nd Place: Young Close-up Photographer of the Year. “I had already photographed great crested tits close to home, but this time I wanted a picture of one against a blurred white background to make the red-eye of the bird stand out. To create the picture I had in my mind’s eye I had to travel four hours to a wood in Switzerland. It was very cold and the snow-covered almost everything. When I arrived, I saw many birds in the wood, but no crested tits. I walked for almost an hour in this beautiful landscape before I heard a familiar call. I stopped, took my camera out of the bag and waited, without moving. I couldn’t tell where the call was coming from. After a while, a crested tit flew on to a branch right in front of me. I moved as slowly as possible, trying not to scare it away, and brought my camera up to my face. I was so happy to see the bird in the viewfinder. I focused on the eye and got a few nice shots.”

 

Image © Heather Angel, cupoty.com. 3rd Place: Micro. “This time-lapse shows how green hydras (Hydra viridissima), although sessile (fixed in one place), can move around. A hydra moves by looping over and over, attaching the tentacles, then detaching the disc before reattaching it. They can also move by floating upside down. This particular hydra was attached to a petri dish raised up from a black background so it could be lit from below using darkfield illumination (DFI) and a microscope. The paler margins of the hydra’s body are a result of DFI. The green color is caused by symbiotic algae that live inside the hydra. In return, the algae provide nutrients to the hydra via photosynthesis. Hydras feed on small crustaceans, including water fleas.”

 

Image © Mathieu Foulquié, cupoty.com. 3rd Place Animals. “This common toad (Bufo bufo) took a liking to me, probably because I looked like a frogman myself. He didn’t stop following me during my two-hour dive in the Buèges karst spring (Hérault, Occitanie, France), so he became the perfect model.”

 

Image © Mike Curry, cupoty.com. Winner: Insects. “I was visiting Goole, the town where I was born in East Yorkshire, in 2018 as my dad was very ill in hospital. To take my mind off things I went for a walk with my wife Justine. There had been no time to pack really so all I had with me was my iPhone XS. We were walking towards the docks when I saw some beautiful peeling paint on an abandoned building site. I went over to photograph it when Justine asked if I had noticed the butterfly too. I hadn’t as I was miles away, but I had already captured this image serendipitously. It felt a surreal moment as my dad particularly liked butterflies and always commented that they represented relatives who had passed away, making it even more poignant. Unfortunately, he passed away shortly after, so this is a special photograph for me.”

 

Image © Tamás Koncz-Bisztricz, cupoty.com. Winner: Young Close-up Photographer of the Year. “I regularly visit a meadow near my hometown of Csongrád-Bokros, Hungary, observing the site in all seasons. The meadow is grazed by Hungarian grey cattle, which keeps the place in relatively good condition. One frosty winter’s morning I headed out to take some extreme macro shots at the surface of some frozen water that had pooled in the tracks left by a tractor. Crouching down, I spotted some yellow globular springtails (Sminthurus maculatus) which feed in the sunrays reflected from the ice. I used LED torches to illuminate one of them, and came away with a picture that celebrates this tiny creature.”

 

 



Photography Science

The Rise of Molds: Dive into the Microscopic Landscape of Growing Fungi

September 8, 2020

Grace Ebert

The Rise of Molds” plunges into the minute world of four species of fungi as they fester, sprout, and morph from spindly, white shoots into dark, dense patches. Shot by Beauty of Science (previously), the timelapse captures Rhizopus, Aspergillus Niger, Aspergillus Oryzae, and Penicillium spores with a supermacro lens, magnifying the microscopic organisms as they grow and sprawl across the screen. Each of the molds is utilized to ferment common foods, like wine and soy sauce, and to add pungent flavors to cheese. Check out Beauty of Science’s extensive library of videos chronicling chemical processes and animal life cycles on YouTube.

 

 

 



Science

Oyster Mushrooms Sprout from The Pages of a New Book About Fungi

May 13, 2020

Grace Ebert

Image © Merlin Sheldrake

Biologist and author Merlin Sheldrake is using a particularly self-referential marketing strategy for his new book Entangled Life. In a recent Instagram post, Sheldrake announced the mycelium-based project’s release with an image of the text literally bursting with fungi. “Here it is being devoured by Pleurotus, or oyster mushrooms. Pleurotus can digest many things, from crude oil to used cigarette butts, and is also delicious. Now Pleurotus has eaten Entangled Life, I can eat the Pleurotus, and so eat my words,” he writes. You can purchase your own (untarnished) copy from Bookshop.