A Surprising Speck

I have always thought leaf cells are beautiful because of their chlorophyll green pigmentation and rigid cell walls that make them look like tiny boxes.  Thus, once I had assembled my Foldscope, the first thing I wanted to investigate was a leaf. I collected my sample by plucking a bright green ivy leaf from the wall of Guyot hall. Returning to my lab area, I tore the leaf up into smaller pieces to fit on the Foldscope slide.  I attached my subject to the slide and looked through my Foldscope.  It was difficult to see with the light, but when I used my phone camera the image became clear:

My leaf!

There it was!  My leaf with all of its tiny box cells and its radiant chlorophyll green.  But what was more curious was a mysterious spider-like speck on the left side of my leaf.  I moved the slide until the speck came into full view:

The mysterious speck…

This image reminded me of spindle fibers in a cell.  Obviously these are not spindle fibers–I don’t think the magnification of the Foldescope is not powerful enough to see those.  However it made me think–what other particles form similar shapes and structures?  What was this mysterious spindle I was seeing?  I removed my slide from the Foldescope to examine it more closely.  Sure enough, there was a small speck of fuzz to the left of my leaf.  I assumed it ended up on my slide when I pressed the leaf piece to the slide.  While this solved the mystery of what microscopic item ended up next to my leaf, it did not explain why the piece of fix had this spider-like structure.  Did it confer a benefit to the speck? Is the speck broken from a larger group of specks and this is the remnant that was left behind?  In general, how does a substance’s function and physical properties dictate its structure?

I conducted this project as part of Professor Pringle’s EEB321 class at Princeton University.

One Comment Add yours

  1. Jana says:

    So cool!did you find out what it was?

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