2013 Small World In Motion Competition

Ophryoglena atra (ciliates) feasting on a copepod larva

Wim van Egmond

Micropolitan Museum
Berkel en Rodenrijs, Zuid-Holland, The Netherlands
Differential Interference Contrast

This video plays out more like a microscopic thriller, with two ciliates scavenging inside the body of a dead organism. Like vultures, ciliates detect dying animals on which to feed. In this case the “victim” is the larvae of a copopod – although how they entered the body is a mystery to van Egmond, who was surprised to capture the pair on their “great escape” once they finished feeding.

Capturing such a scene took a combination of patience and luck, as van Egmond carefully laid out his slides, examining them every so often. He first took shots focusing on the ciliates feeding on the organic material. Thirty minutes passed before he returned to examine the slides, and just managed to catch them fleeing the scene. “It’s strange and beautiful, these simple organisms have no eyes, no ears, no organs,” says van Egmond. “But still, they sense one another. One escapes, and the other follows in an instant. It’s fascinating.”