In March I was given the opportunity to use a brand new confocal microscope at the Natural History Museum to image some of my fiddler crab samples from the Wakatobi Marine National Park.
This is an optical imaging technique that uses lasers to excite specimens and the resulting fluorescence is detected by the microscopes photodetector. I have been using this technique to verify the identification of fiddler crab species, by imaging the gonopods of the male specimens.
After seeing the nature and quality of my images, my supervisor Dr Simon Cragg and Dr John McGeehan asked me if I would be willing to attempt an image of a gribble (Limnoria quadripunctata). Using a four-laser autofluorescence approach I got some views of the gribbles head with some great detail shown on the mandibles.
One of these images has been chosen as the cover image for the journal of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS). This was published on June 18th 2013 alongside the paper by Marcelo Kern et al, who found that gribbles produce cellulose-digesting enzymes that function at high salt concentrations to release sugars from plant biomass, which could prove an important step in the quest to turn waste into liquid fuel.
A huge thank you to Tomasz Goral and Alex Ball at the Natural History Museum for their time, patience and expertise in teaching me to use the microscope and to the NHM for letting me use it.
Thanks also to Paul Clark for all his help over the last 18 months – none of this would have been possible without his guidance.
Some images were also used in a press release by BBSRC regarding the story on gribble enzymes having the potential to produce biofuels. The following links are some of the articles written on this research: