Heron’s Head critters


I stopped by Heron’s Head Park late Sunday and took a few panoramic photo sets. While there I collected three vials of samples from locations on the edge of the wetlands. The most entertaining sample was from a location just up the shore a bit from where Wayne collected earlier samples.

Heron's Head Park

The sample site shown in an earlier kite aerial photograph.

Since I was there principally for the purpose of shooting panoramas it seems only proper that I show you a panorama of the sample site. Refering to the image below, I collected the sample from the pool immediately adjacent to the tripod’s feet. the sample included some algae and a bit of debris as well.

Use mouse or arrow keys to turn the image. Shift key zooms in; control or option key zooms out.

The next day I got a chance to take a look through the microscope and found this sample quite active with a variety of organisms. There were Nematodes and I believe I see Wayne’s suspected Beggiatoa

Samples for the microscope

Here are my sample vials mustering for morning review. The Heron’s Head sample under discussion is shown on the right.

In the debris of this sample lives a fair population of elegant. gliding ciliates with long necks. Could this be a Litonotus cygnus or a Dileptus or even a Lacrymarie olor? Take a look at this unpolished movie and see what you think.

Premiere -  Herons Head

This movie is decidedly unpolished and there is no voice over.
I will spiff it up after progress on identification.

The creatures may be a bit hard to track with the microscope but they a certainly not hard to find. They are also relatively large. Most of the movie was shot at 3x on the camera and 200x on the microscope which should yield a field of view of around xxx.

Over at Micscroscopy-UK, Rosemarie Arburape had this to say:

Dileptus and Litonotus can be confused with each other and with Lacrymaria olor. The position of the mouth is distinctive: Lacrymaria’s is at the end of its very elastic neck, Litonotus‘ is on the side of its neck, and Dileptus‘ is where the neck and body join. Motion of the neck differs, too: Lacrymaria‘s is whipped out and around, noticeably changing length, Litonotus‘ is usually carried at a slight angle to the body, and Dileptus‘ sweeps side to side in arcs exceeding 135°. Litonotus is much smaller than the other two. Once you’ve seen all three, confusion vanishes.

Well I haven’t seen them all so I am still confused. I have seen a nice movie of Lacrymarie olor hunting and the neck is making a peckinglike motion which is less smooth than my specimen. Rosemarie also noted “If Dileptus looks frantic, waving its neck, Litonotus swims elegantly and with poise.”

4 Responses to “Heron’s Head critters”

  1. Wayne Says:

    You have also seen Lacrymaria in some of my freshwater samples. I have not seen it in the salt marsh before. I found no similar Protozoa in my sample site at Heron’s Head. We have had a lot of rain, but I would not think our rain would change the communities in Heron’s Head salt marsh that much.

    I don’t think these critters are Lacrymaria. The movie you provide a URL for is much more typical. I have a little difficulty following your critters, but I will look in my Protozoa taxonomy book to see if I can key them out.

    I will also try to get out to the site.


  2. Cris Says:

    Here are a pair of still shots taken at 200x. In the first the organism is contracted while it probes the edge of the slide sample.

    Heron's Head ciliate contracted 400x

    In the second another specimen is in a moderately elongated gliding pose.

    Heron's Head ciliate gliding 400x

    Patterson’s description of Litonotus (p. 133) seems to fit pretty well.

  3. Bill Patton Says:

    Wayne, I just bought an FM-31 and have been reading with great interest your postings.

    I am all thumbs with a glass slide on the stage. Any suggestions as to where I might purchase one of those nifty mechanical stages you have?

    Many thanks for the work you’re posting. Interesting and informative. Bill

  4. Hidden Ecologies » Blog Archive » Identity of our mystery guest? Says:

    […] In a post last January I described an entertaining ciliate found in samples from Herons Head Park. I could not identify the species so I posted images and a movie of the critter and asked for nelp. The subsequent discussion touched on Dileptus, Lacrymaria, and Litononus as possibllities. All had similarities but none really mayched. I fould the ciliates again in a subsequent Herons Head sample and then again in samples from our Alviso weep site. […]