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Observing a Hydra under a Compound Light Microscope

One of the interesting activities that teachers, students and children can do with their high power compound light microscope and pond water is to observe the Hydra. Hydra is a name given to the microscopic fresh water animals that are attached to the leaves and stems of underwater plants.

It is easy to obtain a sample of a Hydra. It thrives abundantly in ponds and streams and is attached to aquatic vegetation. It can be mostly found at the roots of small floating plants called Duckweed.

We can only see the Hydra’s activities under a compound light microscope. With the naked eye, the Hydra looks like a short thick thread that unravels at its ends. If you examine it closely using compound microscope, you will find that the Hydra is a hollow tube. It has a basal disc that is anchored to a plant. The mouth is located at the other end and surrounding it are six to ten small tentacles. The Hydra contracts and expands its body while the tentacles weave around to gather food.

The Hydra’s tentacles have stinging cells called nematocysts that shoot poisonous barbs into the flesh of its prey. These stinging cells are small, oval or pear-shaped and are scattered around the Hydra’s body. They contain coiled, inverted and thread-like tubes with barbs at the base end.

It is will be an interesting and educational activity for teachers and children is to observe the Hydra feeding under a high power microscope. To feed the Hydra, try giving it small aquatic worms or very small bits of raw beefsteak. Under an educational compound microscope, you will observe how a Hydra seizes its food with its tentacles. The tentacle then bends to bring the food to the mouth while being assisted by the other tentacles. The mouth opens while slowly moving around the food. The food is then forced down into the stomach where it is digested.

Aside from feeding, students in a science class will also be facinated when observing a Hydra’s reproduction under an high power biology microscope. You will be able to know when a Hydra is reproducing if it looks like it has a twin attached to it.

A Hydra’s reproduction process is called budding. If you observe it closely through a compound microscope, it will begin as a bulge on the Hydra’s body wall. Once it has started, the bud rapidly shoots out into a stalk and eventually develops its own set of tentacles. This young Hydra’s body is hollow and depends on the body of the parent. It will be interesting to observe how both parent and child Hydra grasp the same food under the compound light microscope.

Once the bud becomes full grown, it detaches itself from its parent and lives on its own. You’re lucky to witness buds growing from still-attached buds of the Hydra.

To add to the educational experience of the students and kids, another microscope activity can be done to the Hydra to observe its regeneration quality under the microscope. Hydras have a very interesting quality to restore its lost parts, a process of which is called regeneration. To perform this microscope experiment, we have to isolate the cut and dissected Hydra’s parts into separate slides and observe it every day. An interesting activity is to split the head in two and observe as the Hydra results in a two-headed animal. Looking into a Hydra through a high power compound light microscope can be a very fun microscope activity to teachers and students as well as educational to the children. It is a facinating science microscope lessen and highly recommended.

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