Winter adventures with a Foldscope – microorganisms living below zero

The cold winter land reminds of freezing dark spell when life literally freezes, spores and waits for better days to come. This is the myth I walked around in my head; just like winter influences large vertebrates, makes us shiver and seek warmth, so should the single cell eukaryotes, diatoms and algae of this world shiver and escape the cold. Not quiet so actually, as I find tinkering in my winter backyard in Quebec, CA. It’s such a wonderful experience to throw away a myth you harbor in your head, I truly enjoyed this experience. I am yet to write a proper post; but I am quickly sharing all the data I collected over two days of playing in the cold. And suddenly, out of nowhere, a warm spell came along unthawing everything. So not only does life thrive in these cold climates; it’s ready for these dramatic temperature swings that would get our head spinning. Finally, I can say – I enjoy the winter 🙂


For sharing this data, I am trying a new plugin – Thinglink to provide context to my videos/images/data such that we always have the surrounding environment and context in mind while exploring the microcosmos. Here is a dataset I am creating for microorganisms in a frozen river (Black River, Quebec, CA). It was indeed a surprise to find so much life in a frozen stream. I am still looking for papers that explore the role of temperature on ciliary dynamics; have not found much yet. This post will expand significantly; but since I am so excited to share this – I will keep this open and visible as I edit the same.

I am trying to fix the viewing experience – in the mean time; you can also click/or go to this link directly on thinglink website.


Some of the highlights – that have me scratching my head are:

So fast, so incredibly fast – in freezing waters. What on earth is that?

Here is another time it visited my field of view:

Now, this is another strange one – look in the top corner of this video in full screen mode.


Here are the raw videos. I will slowly link all of them in the Thinglink image; and provide context to all of these videos. But why wait to share this wonderful winter delight. Please add comments below; while I continue to edit this post.

7 Comments Add yours

  1. laksiyer says:

    @Manu. Fantastic!! fantastic.. what a way to end 2015. Each video is a classic, still soaking in the impact. Going through my ciliate book too. Happy New Year and lets catch up soon.

  2. laksiyer says:

    BTW, coincidentally, if you look at the latest National Geographic, you can see these chaps digging a hole and looking for planktons with a plankton net under the ice.

  3. Manu Prakash says:

    @Laks: your words were resonating in my head, while I was imaging sitting next to the icy cold waters. What new wonders live in these frozen lands.

    I am intensely reading on protozoan classification (can you mention the book you use in comments). I hurriedly uploaded videos – so I will be organizing the content, possibly in some kind of tree of life.

    Big happy new year 🙂

    Let’s talk in a day or two, I am on the road – finally going back from the icy cold to sunny California 🙂 but now I miss the icy cold.


    Ps: I think that ultra fast ciliate might be a “didinum” – have to do some freeze frames to figure it out. It was so incredibly fast – I am looking to see what the fastest clocked ciliate is.

  4. Manu Prakash says:

    @laks: also, I am looking through to find primary literature on what is the effect of temperature on ciliary beating. Such a simple question – but other than a single paper on tetrahymena (where it has no effect); I have not found any biophysical studies as yet.

    Also: when you watch the movies – do use “full screen”. All kinds of details in the zoom-in; including a lot of fun swimming bacteria and very small ciliates.


  5. Manu says:

    @Laks: I am wondering if the long but contracting ciliate (elongated).. Is a spirostomum. Take a look 🙂


  6. laksiyer says:

    @Manu, the book I have is “How to know the Protozoa”.

    I have a soft copy of the classic Kudo’s Protozoology, which is now available on archive.

    The book that I have been wanting to get and I think I will get it soon is

    Will revert on your identifications..

  7. laksiyer says:

    1. Ultrafast ciliate looks definitely looks like Didinium and I think I saw two ciliary bands in one of them.

    2. Vorticella has a shriveled stalk as though it is cold.

    3. I wonder if unknown ciliate 3 is an ameba. It appears again in the multiple ciliate video and possibly in second last one. I thought in the first it put out a pod, but not sure.

    4. Unknown ciliate 4,7,8 looks like Tetrahymena.

    5. The oral groove on the large ciliate is so typical. It isnt Paramecium as it isnt moving in that cork-screw fashion.

    6. The elongated ciliate is still a mystery. Spirostomum is close to an mm in size. BTW, it was used in an assay in Tom Eisner’s book to measure toxic compounds released by cockroaches.

Leave a Reply