Watching muscles in action 

Geometry is an integral part of living structures. “Shape and form” defines function all the way from molecules to muscle architectures in multi-cellular animals. Intrigued by my previous foldscope adventures of looking at a head of an ant; this time I decided to find more “wrigling things” in the water. I am just amazed to the how muscles attach in complex geometry and are triggered in a perfect pattern to work together and perform a very specific function. The engineers doing “soft robotics” really have a long way to go. All the more reason to start in a field. 

Here I caught a wriggling worm in a fresh water stream in Kirkwood (a Lake Tahoe region). I was fascinated by things in this pond because the temperature was freezing; in fact the water actually had a layer of ice on the water itself. 




I brought some samples back and woke up Dino and Adrien Bos. Jim joined in a little bit (you can hear all our voices in excitement in this video). 


Here is some brightfield data we collected. Watch till the end – when you get to see the fabulous muscle contractions; 100’s of muscles contracting in a coordinated fashion to give rise to a specific pattern. They are prt of the head – I was really hoping that this little monster eats something alive in the foldscope so we could see the head operating in action. 

Enjoy the video. If you know the genus or anything more about this species; please share in comments below. What was peculiar is the fact that the head was heavily pigmented brown; although the rest of the body is pure white. That’s how i picked it up initially. 



2 Comments Add yours

  1. laksiyer says:

    Amazing video. How the muscles move at that temperature! My local expert tells me that it is an insect larva, most likely a dipteran or a beetle.

  2. Manu Prakash says:

    @laksiyer: Yes – exactly. I am telling. You; the water was freezing to an extent that it had a layer of ice already covering everything. And I saw this thing wrigling on a sheet of ice. I wish I had kept it for long – since the head cuticle had jaws (very much like mandibles); and I was confused how can a worm have such specific mandibles (insect like) – so your theory of an insect larvae makes so much sense.

    What is the coldest temperatures insects can still move and adapt to. I know some arctic spiders – but these highly adaptive things might be more common than we think.


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