Understanding the images from our #SeeTheUnseen competition.

Now that our #SeeTheUnseen competition has come to an end and the answers to all the images have been revealed, we thought it an opportune time to talk to David Maitland, the award-winning microscopic photographer who took the images, to learn more about the subject matter.

1 Snail’s radula

The radula of a dog whelk (sea snail)

The radula of a dog whelk (sea snail).

David says: “This is the radula of a common marine rocky shore “netted dog whelk” Nassarius reticulatus photographed at 200x magnification. Snails feed by scraping off food (algae growing on rocks, or your lettuce in the garden) with a long ribbon-like “tongue” or radula. The Radula is a funny structure – it’s like a conveyor belt – the teeth are on it and as it gets worn out it grows another behind.”

A dog whelk feeding off seaweed.

A dog whelk is a type of sea snail.

2 Peacock feather

100x magnification of a male peacock feather.

100x magnification of a peacock feather.

David says: “This is a feather of a male peacock or Indian peafowl, Pavo cristatus. This is taken at the edge of the blue eyespot on one of the tail feathers at 100x magnification. The light interferes with the layers of the feather and so you get colours being produced much like those of an oil slick on the surface of water.”

A peacock feather

Peacock feathers are much more colourful than the peahen’s.

3. Cornea nerves

The nerves found on the cornea - the transparent layer on the front of the eye.

The nerves on the cornea – the transparent layer on the front of the eye.

David says: “The front surface of the eye is covered by a clear transparent structure called the cornea – all the light for seeing travels through this clear surface eye structure. Yet it is not as transparent as you might think – for one thing it is covered in nerve cells for sensing when the eye is touched (remember how painful a bit of sand in your eye is!). Normally transparent, the nerve cells in the picture, which is taken from a Victorian slide, have been stained with silver to make them visible, shown here at 400x magnification.

A human eye

Though transparent, the front of the eye is full of nerves.

4. Garlic

The outer covering of a garlic clove.

The outer covering of a garlic clove.

David says: “The pale white parchment-like outer skin covering garlic cloves are remarkable in having their cells filled with beautiful crystals of oxalic acid! This acid (calcium oxylate) is used by the plant for protection against animals that might want to eat it (like the snail). In plants these crystals are known as raphides and it is the same chemical that forms kidney stones in Humans! Here the crystals are made visible by polarised light at 200x magnification.

A bulb of garlic.

The skin-covering of garlic is full of crystals of oxalic acid.

All images courtesy of David Maitland.

The End
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