Slime Mold Spores

Kingdom: Protist
Image Courtesy of: Shirley Owens, Center for Electron Optics
Image Width: 45 microns
Image Technology: SEM (Scanning Electron Microscope) 

Many types of microorganisms produce spores. Spores serve a function for microbes similar to the role that seeds serve for plants. These spores are the way that this slime mold reproduces. The spores also help the microbe move around; they blow around on the winds, just as many types of seeds do, until they land and "take root" in a new environment.

Kingdom: Protist
Scientific Name: Amoeba proteus
Image Courtesy of: Joanne Whallon
Image Width: 30 microns
Image Technology: Laser Scanning Confocal Microscopy  

Amoebas are some of the most famous members of the microbial world. Amoebas have no fixed shape. Instead, these blobs of protoplasm constantly shift their shape while moving and eating. An amoeba moves by extending part of its "body", called a psuedopod ("false foot"), and then using the psuedopod to drag itself to the new location. Amoebas also use their shape-shifting abilities while feeding; they surround their food with extended psuedopodia, engulfing their prey.

Scientific Name: Anabaena
Image Courtesy of: Shirley Owens, Laser Scanning Microscope Laboratory
Image Width: 23 microns
Image Technology: Laser Scanning Confocal Microscope  

These beautiful strands are not pearls, but rather bacteria that provide us with an element even more valuable to our survival than pearls - namely nitrogen. Anabaena fixes nitrogen; it takes nitrogen gas from the air and binds it into protein molecules. Certain species of bacteria are the only organisms on Earth that are able to fix nitrogen. Since all living things require proteins to function, and since all protein molecules include nitrogen atoms, nitrogen-fixing bacteria play a major role in supporting life on Earth. These bacteria grow in rice paddies on the underside of Azolla ferns. The nitrogen they fix provides an important source of fertilizer for rice. Anabaena is a multi-talented organism; it is also able to create sugar that it uses for food via photosynthesis, just as plants do.