Mapping the microcosmos of the Dipor Bil Bird Sanctuary: 1. Didinium the T-Rex of ciliates

Prologue: I am having one of my most memorable experiences with the PrakashLab: Conducting foldscope workshops under the aegis of the DBT in India. The current post is inspired by a workshop we had at the Assam agriculutural University, Khanapara. Assam is a state in the north-east of India and has several biodiversity hotspots.  

If I told my ornithologist friend that I was at the Dipor Bil Bird Sanctuary, which is known to harbor over 200 species of birds and don’t remember if I saw an egret, he would ask me to take-a-jump into the lake (Bil in the local Assamese) and not look him in the eye ever. So I am not going to do that, but I will instead tell him that this freshwater lake is also a paradise for the microcosmos; one which unlike the bird diversity  of this sanctuary, is mostly unexplored, and is likely to be a never-ending source of discovery and entertainment for microcosmos enthusiasts. This is now making me immensely envious of the foldscope community living in this area. Perhaps this could be our first foldscope citizen project—- Mapping the microcosmos of Dipor Bil— and in that spirit here is a flavor of the great diversity that we saw in this lake. The sample was procured from the south-eastern part of the lake, on our way to the workshop.  In the spirit of being systematic, I am serially listing the species we saw.. But first, here is a view of whats out there.

Now onwards to a more systematic survey. I am hoping that we can make this a combined post where with a small start from the Prakashlab team, we can inspire the local foldscopers to go back to the lake (coordinates provided above) and systematically map its microcosmos biodiversity. Going by what we saw, there are going to be a few of them.

  1. Didinium: A ciliate popularly known to the world as the Paramecium predator, a kind of T-Rex of the ciliate world predating on other ciliates. Didinium has two levels of ciliary bands. One near the oral apparatus and another at the opposite end. Besides many interesting predator-prey interactions and cell division studies, very little is known of its life-cycle in the context of the Dipor Bil Sanctuary.



9 Comments Add yours

  1. sachindatt9 says:

    Cant see the video. Its says its private. Very curious to see what is in it. Can it be made public?

  2. laksiyer says:

    Sorry, slow connectivity in Kaziranga. Video should be up.

  3. Saad Bhamla says:

    @Laks – It looks like the video is set in private mode – you may want to change the setting to public.


  4. Saad Bhamla says:

    @Laks – beautiful video!!
    it seems to me that a database of ciliates is in order, similar to your herculean effort in making the pollen database 🙂


  5. laksiyer says:

    Hi @Saad. Yes, a comprehensive ciliate database should be our next priority. Hopefully we can all join hands.

  6. Manu says:

    @Laks: that’s my highest priority as well. I will be writing the first draft of a grant which all Foldscope explorers will be able to participate from around the world.

    Just back from the adventures in India; and can’t forget the experiences. Can’t wait to hear more about Kaziranga.


  7. Manu Prakash says:

    Beautiful. Somehow I had not seen this video before; how did I miss this. Incredible find; I did not realize they could go in “relax” mode.


  8. laksiyer says:

    @Manu.. Nor did I. But apparently they do if their prey is at low density. Also notice unlike the classical Didiniums, they lack a conical anterior region. We need to get to the bottom of ciliate diversity

  9. Manu Prakash says:

    @Laks: Would you be interested in coming to Stanford for a week; with the goal to write a grant together in exploring ciliate diversity around the world. I am planning stage 2 of the project; and looking at scientific focus of the phase 2. This allows us to focus academic efforts in a specific direction – and all the community members will be welcome to join in on this exploration.

    If you were to visit us; I would like you to spend 2-3 days at least on campus. If Aaravind comes; that will also be awesome. Would something like this be possible? What time frame 🙂 I am completely on board on this. I also have another collaborator who has been really wanting to do this for zooplankton and phytoplankton diversity in the ocean. This is the same group involved with Tara project.


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