Here’s another illustration inspired by the former Ruthven Museum, now the University of Michigan Museum of Natural History. This piece was inspired by the Pond Life diorama on the Ecology and Wildlife floor.
|Life in a drop of water.|
|Algae and ciliates|
|A colony of Volvox and more microscopic algae.|
I’d seen pictures of microbes before, but this diorama really got me to think about them as actual living organisms with unique niches in a functioning ecosystem. I imagined them as animals in a real world rather than just weird phots and drawings.
There is incredible diversity in microscopic life. The most prominent and photogenic critters, of course, are the adorable water-bears, and wheel-mouthed rotifers. But there are tons of strange, interesting living things that all tend to get mushed together under the blanket “Protists” or “Protozoa” label. Microbe classifications are constantly changing, but at present there are around seven major groups that include Euglenids, amoeba, ciliates, flagellates, and so on.
It's tempting to think of microbes as alien creatures. I have, in fact, used protozoans as inspirations for extraterrestrials in other art projects. But the truth is microscopic life is far more abundant on Earth than animals, plants, and other large organisms. They've been around a lot longer too. Life on Earth was primarily microscopic for about three-fourths of its history. It's only within the last billion years or so that macroscopic life evolved on our planet. So, really, WE are the alien newcomers (geologically-speaking) on their world.
By the way, you can get a print of this piece on my store.