Biology Science

Sea urchins are so cool

Gemma Tarlach wrote a piece for Atlas Obscura about sea urchins and a photo of one that looks like a “nighttime drone shot of a futuristic city”:

You’ve probably never seen a sea urchin like this. This cross-section of a juvenile purple sea urchin may resemble a drone’s-eye view of a Blade Runner cityscape, but it’s actually a microscopic image created through a method called immunofluorescence. This technique allows researchers to stain molecules with fluorescent dyes, illuminating and differentiating the various networks within an animal. (Here, for example, muscle fibers appear in cyan, or bright blue, while the nerves are yellow.) And then they’re able to follow that entire yellow nerve network throughout the animal’s body (as in the video below). This kaleidoscopic effect is useful for learning how organisms develop, both as individuals and as a species—and it could give researchers insights into how our own species evolved.

The referenced photo was taken by postdoctoral researcher Laurent Formery and received a mention in the 2020 Olympus Image of the Year competition.

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