Friday, August 12, 2016

Aquatic biology-DiY @GIANTMicrobes #Homeschool

Materials used:

Fabric markers
Yarn (for paramecium silia and euglena flagella)
Hot glue gun (for putting microbes together)

The Python Mom (Great Snake's mom and main social media manager at My Little Python) found an old sheet and figured that for The Great Snake's aquatic biology focus this year, she could do some cell models of unicellular organisms. So we did. Here is a bit of information about our DIY Giant Microbes.


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Amoebas or amoebae are very familiar and popular unicellular organisms. The amoeba species this DIY Giant Microbe is based on is Amoeba proteus, named after the Greek god Proteus who constantly changed his shape to avoid capture. Amoeba proteus changes its shape and color to escape predators or ambush prey. Its psuedopods are tentacle-like structures used to engulf prey and move. The average amoeba lives for approximately 2 days but they, like almost all protists, reproduce by dividing or fission, creating hundreds of clones of themselves, which can then divide to make even more clones. This makes amoebae essentially immortal.

Blue-Green Algae (Cyanobacteria)

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Algae seem to be innocent, unassuming photosynthetic bacteria. Most pond scum consists almost entirely of them and they get energy from the simplest food-carbon dioxide and water. These innocent creatures are the deadliest killers in the history of life. Billions of years ago, most life could not breathe oxygen. So, when the algae came along, the toxic oxygen they breathed out killed almost all other forms of life. It also formed an atmosphere and rusted rocks. The algae paid for this dearly. The ecological catastrophe they caused resulted in the evolution of the first animals-cells that breathed oxygen and ate algae. Assuming that you're on Earth, you are probably a distant descendant of these first oxygen-breathing cells. So next time you see some pond scum, thank it for your existence.


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This was one of the most challenging DIY Giant Microbes to create, because due to all the cilia having to be cut out from yarn and glued on, not only is it probably the coolest-looking of our microbes, but it was the most time-consuming to create. Paramecia are some of the most common and popular protists, found in almost all freshwater environments. Paramecia are the most complex microscopic organisms and move via huge numbers of cilia, hair-like structures that propel the organism through the water. Another awesome feature of paramecia is their trichocysts. These spikes are used for porcupine-like protection but can also be shot like harpoons at unsuspecting bacteria or other protists. Seriously. Think about that for a second. It's a microorganism that shoots freaking harpoons. 

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Euglena's name sounds rather pleasant. This is because it's from the Greek root eu-, which means good and is the same root found in words like "euphoria", "eurythmic", and "Eugene". Euglena's name literally translates to "good eye", referring to Euglena's red eye spot, which is really just used to detect changes in light but provides some of the best vision of any microscopic organisms. Euglena have many of the aspects of paramecia, often referred to as "animal-like" protists. But they are photosynthetic, an aspect often used to refer to plants. This shows how much trash the "plant-like" and "animal-like" labels are for protists. Protists predate both plants and animals and should not be compared to either. So, Euglena are neither "plant-like" nor "animal-like". They're simply "protist-like".

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