S Is For Spirulina.


A while back I was involved in preparing an activity for kids as part of a science outreach event, the goal was to show them some bacterial diversity and how different bacteria look, both macroscopically (and for that we tried our best at Petri Dish Art, I highly recommend you look that up) and microscopically. As I was scanning through a wet mount of Arthrospira platensis (spirulina), I found this delightful S-shaped filament (called a trichome) and couldn’t resist. The quality isn’t very good, this was taken by hand-holding my phone over the microscope’s eyepiece.

  1. platensis is a cyanobacterium, a photosynthetic organism that gets its energy and food from sunlight and carbon dioxide just like plants do. Unlike many cyanobacteria, A. platensis does not produce toxins and that’s why it can be used as a food supplement. Its cells typically associate into spiral-shaped filaments but what you see here is a fragment of a spiral that has taken a S-like shape. If you zoom in you can see the individual cells and at the bottom right of the picture there is a single cell. No staining was done, they are naturally green because of the chlorophyll.

Click for full size!

© Nightjar, all rights reserved.


  1. Nightjar says

    (Sorry, I don’t know what happened with formatting but that 1 at the beginning of the second paragraph should be an A.)

    Raucous Indignation,

    IIRC, this was 400x. I was quite surprised by their size, their cells are quite big for a bacterium. I don’t work with spirulina but I’ve grown another cyanobacterium, Synechocystis, and its cells are smaller than this.

  2. Nightjar says

    Thank you, voyager! Glad you found it interesting, I decided to use this picture because it literally has an S in it! :D

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