Diatoms – living in a glass house

Walk around a pond and just take a small cup of water from the edge of the pond. What you just got is lots and lots and lots of glass houses. It’s almost ironic; what you think is nasty pond scum is mostly absolutely beautiful jewels of nature. Ironically, nobody knows what these glass houses do for the diatoms; tiny little guys and gals that live inside the glass house. 

I just mounted a few live diatoms in a glass slide and looked through my foldscope (140x).  I was very happy with what I saw; specially quiet surprised to find “gliding” diatoms. Yes – you heard it right; gliding diatoms. It’s a puzzle inside a puzzle – isn’t that fascinating. 


Go get some pond water and take a look. Who knows what’s waiting for you. 



7 Comments Add yours

  1. laksiyer says:

    Diatoms were test objects for microscopic lenses in the 19th century. I love watching diatoms.. They have so many fascinating biological aspects. One of the most amazing things is that after cell division one descendant is bigger than the other (imagine a petridish cover and base). The one equivalent to the petridish cover always remains as a cover, and the one that is the smaller base becomes the cover in the next generation.. Thus there is one lineage which grows smaller and smaller until….. they switch to a sexual mode to get back to their original size. The diatom cell wall biochemistry is absolutely fascinating. You might read some of this at

  2. Manu Prakash says:

    @laksiyer: Just read the blog post and abstract of your paper on pubmed. That is quiet remarkable. I had not realized you have worked on such a remarkable and broad range of things:) Alsso, I specially like the biomimetics paper that Is cited in the blog: I did not know someone had succeeded in making something in a in-vitro system.

    I have another collection of images I made. Also, i collected data on gliding speeds for some of the diatoms. That is something that has often fascinated me. Will post the video soon.

  3. laksiyer says:

    Dear Manu: That in vitro biomimetics paper is a wonderful way of getting nanopatterns, It is amazing what biological systems can achieve. Cant wait to see your movies of gliding motility of the diatoms. I love the way you quantitate things under the foldscope. It is very inspiring. Spring is upon us and I am soon going to survey local ponds for never-ending entertainment.

    Thanks for your kind words. Just been fortunate to work with a polymath whose knowledge of biological systems is astronomical. Exploring protein space and the microcosmos are very similar and give the same joy, always something to explore, known and unknown.

  4. Niramay Gogate says:

    This is just amazing!!
    I saw first diatom’s image 6-7 years back and from that moment, I fell in love with these beautiful creatures.
    Thank you very much for this post.

  5. jeneel says:

    This is really fun to watch ……… you mentioned gliding diatom, it would be great if you post a video. @manu i love your posts they are really informative and the clicks are beautiful.
    i dont get so good photos . which slide do you use the glass slides or the paper slides,with the paper slides i don’t get clear photos due to the adhesive which makes the view dull.


  6. Manu Prakash says:

    @JPK: Just any plain simple glass slide should give you these images. The whole point is that every microscope is exactly the same. So you should be getting the exact same kind of results.

    You can make a post comparing a glass slide and tape; to show the result of tape. Also compare different types of tape (you should see differences). That would be a nice post and very useful for everyone else.


  7. Manu Prakash says:

    @JPK: I posted the gliding diatom videos; I hope you have seen that post 🙂


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