Kern's Holler Journal Biology
Under the Microscope, by Ivan Stang

Horrible Animalcules Live In Our Birdbaths!

I started using my new $30 microscope in the hunt for AMOEBA SEX. So far no amoebas, or hot thrills, but I sure got some cold chills.

The newt's tankwater, surprisingly, shows few signs of animalcule life, although there is plenty of planticule life in there, and newt skin cells. (We cleaned the tank but kept for study some of the brackish thick "water" he'd been living in.) After some searching at the lowest enlargement (40x) I did spot one fast-moving zooflagellate of some kind, very small, and tearing all over the place like Speedy Gonzales. I glimpsed him (or his brother) only twice in that particular sample.

However, today, when I was supposed to be working on my Latest Big Project, I nabbed me a sample of birdbath water from the back yard. I also took a small scoop of wet dirt from the garden. I put one grain of the dirt on a "microaquarium" slide and added one half-drop of birdbath-water.

Well, boy howdy, hunting was very good today. That sample had so many of what are probably Tetrahymena that you could hardly miss them. These are flat oblongs with mild points on the end that dart about EATING. At least that's what it looked like they were all doing. Nosing into tiny bits of mini-dirt and along lumps in the Vaseline walls of the microaquarium and EATING. They don't have mouths exactly, but they sure gave the impression of "grazing." They're pretty much colorless although I was able to get more detail and contrast by shading the light with my hand. These might not be Terahymena but ciliates called Blepharisma. I'm a real newbie at animalcule watching.

Anyway I was watching a couple of these little buggers spazz about when suddenly I was SCARED HALF SHITLESS by the sudden, violent appearance of a GIGANTIC 12-FOOT WRITHING MONSTER SNAKE with VISIBLE GUTS! When you have been adjusting yourself to the universe of things measured in MICRONS, if a critter suddenly appears that's a whole millimeter long, it SHAKES YOUR WORLD! And boy, was this thing VIOLENTLY WHIPPING AROUND! And gross looking, because it's sort of transparent and either its ass or head is almost CLEAR, but there's this string of ugly crap running down the middle.

I looked up the hideous writhing all-devouring scary monster in the microlife-spotting book that Ouroborus gave us and as I suspected, it was a mere Soil Nematode, one of the commonest things on the planet (as is the Terahymena). The humblest things that Bog in His Wisdom etc. etc.

The thought that I had EVER had dirt or birdbathwater, or ANYTHING
NATURAL AT ALL, anywhere near my mouth GROSSED ME OUT for a few seconds there. Then I remembered that much uglier things live in, for instance, the creases around my eyelashes, and I calmed down.

The hunt for microlife is exciting! I know that if I try a few more (deeper) soil samples and birdbath-scrapings I'll no doubt find The Great White Amoeba that is my quest. Moby Amoeba.

Okay, now there is nothing left but to get to that work.

My fear is that once I start I won't be able to stop. Laugh if you
wioll, but it's true.