Volvox the art gallery

Volvox Art Gallery. Image from Art Gallery. Image from

If you’ve ever seen Volvox alive under a microscope, you probably remember it. They are beautiful, huge (relative to most things in a drop of pond water), and seemingly purposeful as they roll across the field of view. Volvox and its relatives have also played important roles in some big scientific and philosophical discussions, such as the evolution of multicellularity, the evolution of cooperation, and the nature of biological individuality. Given all that, it’s probably not too surprising that the volvocine algae, and Volvox in particular, have inspired a lot of art, including paintings,

Volvox by Aeravi. Oil on canvas.

Volvox by Aeravi. Oil on canvas.

book covers,


poetry, a video game, t-shirts, and more. There is even a DJ Volvox:


Now Volvox is connected with art in a different way–an art gallery in Mie Prefecture in Japan (please forgive the somewhat crappy Google translation):

Beautiful microorganism-Volvox to grow to clean ponds and other water, and thousands of body cells to aggregate, has formed one of the solid. Sphere of solid live while cooperation, continue around and toward the light, always creates a new individual. This and the beautiful design of the minimum organisms have, in a simple and highly complete ecological system, superimposing the concept of VOLVOX, was named.

VOLVOX aims to be “place of free expression by making hand our own, created as a friendly space that is open to the city,” face-to-face “space in which local communications are stacked through the work.”


Stable links:

Michod, R. E., A. M. Nedelcu, and D. Roze. 2003. Cooperation and conflict in the evolution of individuality. IV. Conflict mediation and evolvability in Volvox carteri. BioSystems 69:95–114.


  1. brucegee1962 says

    You know, if I’d ever seen anything alive under a microscope, I would remember it. I have a whole raft of memories from my childhood, and then later from my childrens’ childhoods, of reading enraptured stories about the amazing world within drops of water. I had several different full microscope sets, and I would get them all set up, and go find the scummiest pond water I could locate, bottles with every gross liquid I could find, and carefully set it up on a slide, and see…


    Different sizes of green and brown and black blobs, made up of various internal structures of dirt. I kept searching for any kind of flagellaed or cilia-waving form to come swimming across my field of view. Hours and hours I spent searching.

    Nothing. Ever. Moved.

    Nothing even looked symmetrical enough to believably be a once-living organism. Just blobs. So I went off and became a humanities major.

    I definitely believe that we landed on the moon. But I still can’t help thinking that all you so-called “microbiologists” claiming to see so-called “microrganisms” are actually just part of an elaborate hoax going all the way back to Anton van Leeuwenhoek.

  2. Matthew Herron says

    brucegee1962, that’s too bad (not that you became a humanities major, but that you never saw any animalcules). If you ever want to stop by the lab, I’ll be happy to show you some very cool stuff under the scope.


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