A mysterious pond in Kakamega rainforest, Kenya

“We don’t get many visitors here. When people come to Kenya, they just want to see the big animals. They all go to safaris. But for me, the rainforest is much more interesting. I’ve been a guide here for almost 30 years. If more people visited, we would have more funds for preservation. We already lost so much rainforest. This is now the ONLY tropical rainforest in Kenya.” Words from our amazing guide, Solomon.

The rainforest was beyond fascinating. Solomon knew the names (Both the scientific name and the common name!! And he spelled out the scientific names for me so I could note them down) of EVERY SINGLE TREE we saw. There was Trichilia emetica, the bark of which locals use to treat stomach issues and gonorrhea. There was Croton macrostachyus, which is traditionally used to treat Typhoid. There was Yucca, the most common plant in the forest, the roots of which are SO good at water absorption that, according to Solomon, they’re the reason the rainforest doesn’t have mosquitoes (because the water is always uptaken too quickly after rainfall for mosquitoes to hatch)! Can confirm, no bites! And there were many, many more…

But of course, this is a microcosmos post. At the end of our hike, I asked: “What’s covering that little pond over there?”

And it was the one question Solomon didn’t know the answer to, because “it doesn’t look like the type of algae we typically get here”.

We decided to make use of our empty water bottle to take a small sample from this mysterious pond. Correct us if we’re wrong, but we think Solomon answered the one question he thought he couldn’t answer, correctly! It looks like the green stuff is watermeal, not algae~ And, even without our Foldscope, we could see that the pond water is teeming with life!

We put a drop of the water under the Foldscope, and it is indeed teeming with life. Neither I nor Ezekiel are very experienced with species identification, but from the first video, we concluded the micro-organisms really enjoy making a good meal out of the watermeal, and from the second video we’re guessing that we’re seeing a large nematode? and perhaps some flatworms/large ciliates?

I agree with Solomon. Rainforests and all the wonders it houses – from the famous 800 year old GIANT Olea capensis to these cute little organisms whose names are, for the time being, unknown to our little group – are much more interesting. 🙂

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Wikipedia page for Kakamega: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kakamega_Forest

2 Comments Add yours

  1. laksiyer says:

    Jambo. Wow. I am so excited to read this. My early childhood was spent in neighboring Uganda. Would give anything to go back in time with a foldscope. The quality of the videos are exquisite. Here’s a running commentary, pardon errors. The first ciliate looks like a Euplotes, which comes up again in 32 seconds. Love how it walks on its feet. Then there is the flatworm trying to squeeze its way out. At 1:20 is a great favorite, Paramecium bursaria. If you just leave this pond water in a bottle, in a few months this ciliate will overgrow the rest. I noticed there are a couple of them already. It carries its own food in the chlorella it has ingested. There is a small ciliate that looks like Tetrahymena but needs better clarity. At 2:41 is the posterchild of ciliates, Paramecium. Normally these are really rapid but this one is stuck. The focus is so good that you can also see some bacteria around it. Love the dance of the Euplotes.

    Nilifurahiya sana kutazama hii.
    Asante

  2. Manu Prakash says:

    @Laks – you beat me to it.. incredible footage of Euplotes just walking around. I think the big surface they are walking on – and what covers the pond green on the surface is “floating duck weed”.. these are incredible floating plants that live on the air-water interface and remain floating the entire time.

    @ilikeCookie: what a fantastic documentation – I hope you left some foldscope with the guide and train him/her on recording and sharing findings on his/her walks.

    So looking forward to reading more posts from Kenya! Keep exploring.

    cheers
    manu

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