A zebrafish timelapse recording

At my talk on Tuesday, the centerpiece was a short movie of zebrafish development—I was trying to show just how amazingly cool the process was. People seemed to like that part of the show, at least, so I thought I’d try to figure out this YouTube doohickey and upload it for general viewing. So here it is, a timelapse recording of about 18 hours of zebrafish embryology compressed into 48 seconds:

I’ve got more, and my students will be making videos of their own soon enough, so maybe I’ll try uploading some other stuff soon. I’m discovering that YouTube is a little tricky about the aspect ratio, and the conversions do add some distracting compression artifacts to the movie…I may have to tinker quite a bit to get a more satisfactory image.


  1. miko says

    i love how you can see the cell divisions suddenly go all asynchronous around the midblastula transition. are the weird jerky movements in the head around :35 compression artifacts?

  2. lo says

    By all means please make your students aware of Wikimedia Commons and if you have no problems with the rights (that is if you`r university is fine with that) make it available under the Free Documentation License. Thus it is preserved for posterity, and rights issues will certainly play an increasingly bothersome rule.


    PS: It`s a bit awkaward because they(Wikipedia Team) are overly careful about using 100% open source media formats and only such that are also guaranteed free of hypothetical reverse engineered code. Best let one of your students do it if he`s interested. It may often be that there are already students interested to do that but don`t even dare to ask because especially the older generations feel way differently about licencing and intellectual property. Just ask your students how most of them obtained their music….i forsee long minutes of silence.

    PS: The flash videos cannot be implemented easily into presentations and the likes, hence it would be preferential for lecturers to have them also available as downloadabel videos.

  3. says

    This video is awesome. Congrat! Is it the full movie? Could you please upload the whole process?

    Anyway I use Wikimedia Commons regularly, and have no problem with that. cc.by.sa licence is the future. I think upload it there bravely. (I’m a wiki user anyway)

  4. says

    The herky-jerky stuff near the end, as the head is becoming more prominent, is all artifact. It’s not present in my original quicktime copy, which has somewhat higher resolution. I’ve got lots of videos like this, but I’m not going to post them all — they’d get kind of repetitive, and I’ve also got to work on optimizing the compression some.

    This is the whole movie. At the very end, notice how it seems to wiggle? Spontaneous motor activity starts up at about 18 hours, and by about 20 hours, the motion is so strong that you can’t watch it very well on timelapse. The fish is just spinning around on the screen. I might put up some examples of that later. The only way around it would be to anesthetize the animal…I’ve done some with the poor fish knocked out cold, too.

  5. George Atkinson says

    I would hope that links to downloadable versions will also be made available for folks like me who do not have sufficient bandwidth for youtube.

  6. says

    This is awesome! I love the pulsing exponential cell divisions in the beginning of the clip. Towards the end, are the repeating shapes on the right side the early stages of spinal development?

  7. Echo4Mike says

    PZ, for those of us whose biological knowledge is limited to the really simple stuff – like a 10,000 foot view of mitosis – can you describe what’s going on here? I see a bunch of foam wrap twice around a big ball, and then it sprouts a head and a a tail from its spine. What’s going on? Where’s the scale? Why do I feel like I’ve been left out of the joke? “And then he says ‘That was spontaneous motor activity, not my pager!'”

    Needless to say, while you may have a bunch of budding biologists on staff in the Comments section, a lot of us tune in for your snark, atheism, and piratey attitude. Lend a hand when you show us the cool stuff. :)

  8. Dawn O'Day says

    Echoing echo4mike, that was awesome but could use some more data on what’s going on. it was amazing to see it organize itself (at least to my eyes) all at once all towards the end…

  9. TAW says

    Actually they’re right. I have a few questions myself… I know that the big ball is the yolk, which feeds the little embryo disk thing… but where did the yolk come from? is that a huge, specialized … what do you call those cells that take care of the ovums in the ovary?

    Does it not go through gastrulation and stuff or is the wraping around the yolk analogous to that?

    I find it interesting that when the tail starts to separate from the yolk, it takes a little bit of it with along.