The Nematode

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This article originally appeared in the 06 July 2007 issue of The Citizen Scientist.

By Bill Dembowski

As an avid microscopist who is “transportationally challenged,” I have developed an interest in airborne life forms and keep a 20-gallon tub of rain water in my backyard to catch whatever falls out of the air. One of the more numerous visitors to my tub are nematodes. Over 20,000 species of these worms have been identified, and the total number of species yet to be described is sometimes placed as high as 500,000.

Figure 1. Nematode imaged with a Leica CME microscope (40x objective) and Moticam 1000 camera with 2x transfer lens for an effective magnification of 800x. Microphotograph by Bill Dembowski.

Figure 1. Nematode imaged with a Leica CME microscope (40x objective) and Moticam 1000 camera with 2x transfer lens for an effective magnification of 800x. Microphotograph by Bill Dembowski.

 Nematodes are so common that Nathan A. Cobb (Nematodes and Their Relationships, 1915) wrote: “In short, if all the matter in the universe except the nematodes were swept away, our world would still be dimly recognizable, and if, as disembodied spirits, we could then investigate it, we should find its mountains, hills, vales, rivers, lakes and oceans represented by a thin film of nematodes. The location of towns would be decipherable, since for every massing of human beings there would be a corresponding massing of certain nematodes. Trees would still stand in ghostly rows representing our streets and highways. The location of the various plants and animals would still be decipherable, and, had we sufficient knowledge, in many cases even their species could be determined by an examination of their erstwhile nematode parasites.”

About William Dembowski

I am retired and now free to pursue my true life’s work as a science jock. I have a domed astronomical observatory in my backyard, a microbiology lab in one spare bedroom, and a photographic studio in another (ooops, that’s art not science).
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