Monday, July 9, 2012

An unexpected bonus - a thrip larva

In an effort to improve my skills with the electron microscope, I have begun to make detailed studies of some of the organisms on the Eastfield campus.  I picked the trees shown below because I could reach the leaves - most the of the established trees on campus have been trimmed too high for me.

I began with a dissecting scope and discovered some passengers on the  underside of the leaf that were too small for me to see with the naked eye (at least my naked eye).

I love those purple eyes!!

The thrip was interesting (of course at this point I had no idea what it was), but I was also intrigued with the leaves.  Notice on the picture below what appears to be some beads of fluid.  The plant was definitely aromatic giving off a strong but not unpleasant odor when I touched the leaves.

So now on to the scanning electron microscope.  First the upper surface of the leaf.

I am continually astonished at the strange worlds I find with the electron microscope - worlds that were there all along, in plain sight, yet still invisible to us.

It is just a guess, but I suspect that the four-part structure on the upper surface of the leaf shown below produces those little drops of liquid on the lower leaf surface.

Now for a look at the underside of the leaf.

The image below shows a vein on the leaf.  Who knew?

But what about that thrip??

The thrip's mouth parts point straight down.  Unfortunately, they are hidden by its right front leg. 

The bitter end.

In the picture below you can see a close up of the eye.  The large structures on the far right are antennae.

Now for the really cool part
I noticed a small structure between the first and second pair of legs on this little fellow.  The image below is magnified 400x - high power for a light microscope.

How about at 2,000x?  See below.

Now for 6,000x - six times oil immersion on a light microscope.

What the heck???  I will have to find out.

If you are near Eastfield College in Mesquite, TX, you and your students are invited to come and use the electron microscopes.  If you can't make it in person, I would be happy to work with you and your classes via Skype. Eastfields SEMs are also available for faculty and student research. 

Contact Murry Gans

It all begins here!

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