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Under a Microscope: Examining Euglena and Volvox

One of the most interesting microscope activities teachers can do with their students is to examine a euglena and volvox under a high power compound light microscope.

The Euglena is a creature that has been a subject of debates between botanists and zoologists. It is because that the euglena exhibits both the characteristics of a plant and an animal. Zoologists argue that the euglena is an animal because it can freely move which is a characteristic only animals possess. Euglena can swim because of a whip-like process called flagellum. Botanists, on the other hand, say that it a plant because it can manufacture its own food. Like plants, euglena has chlorophyll and under the presence of light, the chlorophyll breaks down carbon dioxide and releases oxygen.

Euglena is not the only creature which has plant and animal characteristics. There are also many out there that are part animal and part plant. They are called Flagellates. Euglena is the most common among flagellates.

Now we will try to examine a euglena under a high power scientific microscope. Euglena can be found among amoeba. You can make an amoeba culture at home by collecting pondweed and placing some of it in a petri dish covered with water. Leave it for days in a dark room until you see a brown scum on the water’s surface. The brown scum contains amoeba as well as euglena.

If you don’t want to make your own, you can try to find one in small bodies of fresh water. To identify a euglena under an educational compound light microscope, look for an elongated creature that has a long whip-like tail that is attached to the end.

Under a high power compound light microscope, a euglena looks like a narrow elongated creature that is wide in the middle. It is green in color due to the chlorophyll. It also contains many oval-like bodies that are called chloroplasts. If you look at a euglena under a high power biology microscope, you will see that there extends a long and colorless flagellum at a notched opening of its front end. This notched opening is the mouth in which leads to the reservoir. If you look closely near the reservoir, you will see red colored granules called the eye-spot. This microscopic eye-spot is very sensitive to light and the euglena uses this to locate light for its food-making process. One science microscope activity that can be done by examining euglena under a high power microscope is to observe its reproduction process. A euglena will start to divide at the end where the flagellum separates the euglena into two. One half retains the flagellum while the other half will grow a new one.

A plant characteristic of the euglena is that it forms a resting spore with a thick wall during autumn. This lasts over winter and will germinate when spring comes. Each spore then will produce new plant animals.

The next that we will observe under a high power compound light microscope is the volvox. The volvox is a colony that can be found when flagellates form gelatine-like colonies. The volvox looks like a sphere that spins and rolls continuously in the water. If you look at it through a high power compound microscope, you will find that the volvox is actually made up of thousands of microscopic spheres that are its individual cells.

You will also notice that the outer surface of the volvox is surrounded by flagella that vibrate continuously. This gives the rolling motion of the volvox.

The volvox’s reproduction process is also easy to see under the microscope. In the sphere you will see small deep green balls. These are the young plant-animals and you can see them in various stages of development. Once they become mature, they will roll away from the mother globe and have their own existence.

The volvox and euglena are among the many microscopic pond water organisms that we can see under the high power compound light microscope. Examining them will help high school and elementary students learn more about the world that they wouldn’t see unless they use a microscope.

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