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The Blind watchmaker's Mainspring -- The Butterfly Proboscis

 
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Cactusdave



Joined: 09 Jun 2009
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Location: Bromley, Kent, UK

PostPosted: Sat Aug 06, 2011 12:13 am    Post subject: The Blind watchmaker's Mainspring -- The Butterfly Proboscis Reply with quote

I couldn’t resist the title once I’d had a good look at the butterfly proboscis and seen its resemblance to the mainspring of an old fashioned pocket watch. For those not in the know it’s a reference to Richard Dawkin’s book on the evolution of complex structures in living organisms, particularly the mammalian eye. ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Blind_Watchmaker ).

As a former professional cell biologist, and therefore inevitably microscopist, by trade, I spent years using nice expensive microscopes watching various cells behaving and misbehaving (cancer) themselves. What I missed is variety. In the heyday of amateur microscopy in the Victorian and Edwardian eras, the amateur microscopist would have had endless amusement from his ‘cabinet’ of prepared specimens. Great firms and individual preparers with hallowed names like Watson, Flatters and Garnet, Topping, Enoch etc. fed a thriving market of enthusiasts with deep pockets who having bought the latest microscope had to complement it with the latest novelty preparation. Today some of these old slides still attract fierce collecting passions and change hands for silly money. Fortunately it is possible to acquire nice old slides with less illustrious pedigrees at a more reasonable price, and in retirement I have enjoyed using some of them to remedy my somewhat one sided experience of microscopy.

A while back I bought a slide of the butterfly tongue or rather proboscis, by the firm of Norman, founded by J. T. Norman in 1846 and subsequently carried on by his son Alfred until well into the 1930s. The slide was rather dusty and unloved looking, but after a quick clean and cursory viewing, I set it aside as definitely worthy of a proper study.

All pictures were taken with a Canon 40D mounted on the front SLR port of a Nikon Diaphot inverted microscope. This port receives an image from the objective via a X2.5 lens incorporated into the body of the microscope. The microscope has a rather tired LWD phase/DIC condenser with DIC prisms for X10 and X40 LWD DIC objectives and clearly had a long and trying former life in the hands of numerous graduate students in an electrophysiology lab before I bought it in a non functioning state from a junk dealer and with some professional help fixed it up.

I first looked at my butterfly proboscis slide using a X4 0.13 Plan DL objective. It’s easy to get a nice darkfield image with this low power objective and this was the result.



The simple X4 brightfield image was a bit disappointing, but dialling in the X10 DIC prism and fiddling with the analyser rotation produced that nice oblique effect that can sometimes be produced with a non-DIC objective in a DIC setup, which Graham Matthews has called variable oblique illumination, VOILA. http://www.photomacrography.net/forum/viewtopic.php?t=4386&highlight=voila




These two unstacked pictures were enough to convince me that a stack with the X10 0.25 Plan DIC objective would be worthwhile. This is a stack of 22 images at 10 micron intervals stacked with Helicon Focus




The detail in this stacked image in turn persuaded me that a full stack and stitch panorama was in order. I took 11 stacks each of between 16 and 22 images (195 images in total) and combined the individual processed stacks with Microsoft Image Composite Editor. The resultant composite image was cleaned up in Photoshop Elements 7.



A zoomable 17 Mpixel version of the ‘micropanorama’ is available on the Microsoft Photosynth site here. http://photosynth.net/view.aspx?cid=d3f98ebf-d716-4983-8587-23ed359b5f51

This is best viewed full screen. To do this hit the icon just to the right of the + symbol on the screen. It will take plenty of zooming in to fully appreciate the detail. It reminds be of the sort of incredible moulding you see on baroque ceilings or very elaborate picture frames. The proboscis goes on quite a way further, but I cut the stitch off at this point as no new features are displayed. In fact I thought the length of the ‘tail’ unbalanced the image a bit and I prefer this cropped version.



A 17 Mpixel version of this crop can be found on Photosynth here. http://photosynth.net/view.aspx?cid=3eeadc29-349a-473b-b609-764f0d55c956

The structure of the butterfly proboscis is a complex tube comprising two halves that are zippered together shortly after the butterfly emerges from the pupa. The butterfly uses the resulting muscular tube to suck up liquids driven by a pumping action inside the head. The initial uptake of fluid into the tube seems to be driven by capillary action in the tortuous channels at the end of the proboscis. In my slide the two zippered halves have been peeled apart and the image as captured is looking down on one half. The central tube can be seen nicely in the SEM image in this link on the right near the top of the page. http://www.butterfly-conservation.org/text/305/proboscis.html For comparison I made a 3D version of a similar part of my image using the Helicon Focus 3D function. As this is not the ‘Pro’ version of Helicon, the image contains a Helicon branding logo. Similar features can be seen and the section of the central tube is easy to spot.


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gpmatthews



Joined: 03 Aug 2006
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Location: Horsham, W. Sussex, UK

PostPosted: Sat Aug 06, 2011 4:03 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

David, a really nice set of images! I really must get back to trawling through some of my old slides...
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Simon W



Joined: 01 Jul 2011
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Location: Melbourne, Australia

PostPosted: Sat Aug 06, 2011 5:34 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Yes nice David and I enjoyed your narrative. Wow that is a lot of shots for one image. I'm afraid I'd never be bothered doing that many!

And I reckon you are correct, the cropped version is better.
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Mitch640



Joined: 15 Aug 2010
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PostPosted: Sat Aug 06, 2011 7:00 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

That's just amazing, and a lot to take in. So now I am wondering, how old is the slide you have?
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Cactusdave



Joined: 09 Jun 2009
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PostPosted: Sun Aug 07, 2011 12:35 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks Graham, Simon and Mitch.

Simon, yes stacked panoramas are a fairly major undertaking. It's only worth doing them on really interesting subjects with lots of detail. They require a bit of planning. It's sensible to do an unstacked panorama first to make sure you have the coverage right and to do individual trial stacks at the deepest and shallowest parts of the subject too to make sure you have that aspect correct.

Mitch, this is not one of the oldest style of slide from the firm of Norman. I guess this is probably from the 1920s.
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bromodomain



Joined: 02 Jan 2011
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PostPosted: Sun Aug 07, 2011 9:02 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Very nice David. I enjoyed reading that and your images are a pleasure.
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Cactusdave



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PostPosted: Sun Aug 07, 2011 1:11 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks bromodomain, you comment is appreciated.

I made a stereo pair of the 3D image using Helicon. I think if the fusion works for you it gives a good impression of the 3D shape of the inside of the proboscis.


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Charles Krebs



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PostPosted: Sun Aug 07, 2011 8:26 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Dave,

Wow, that's a lot of work... you would make the slide creator proud.

I'm particularly intrigued by the second image. Very nice! I'll need to play around a little more, although in the past such efforts as you describe were quite quite poor for me.
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Gerald Helbig



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PostPosted: Sun Aug 07, 2011 10:52 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Dave,

very nice pictures. Thanks for the detailed description.

Best regards

Gerald
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Cactusdave



Joined: 09 Jun 2009
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PostPosted: Sun Aug 07, 2011 11:50 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks Charles and Gerald, your comments are appreciated.

Charles, I find with the DIC system on the Diaphot that with the X10 DIC prism in the light path several non-DIC plan objectives give a 'band' of strong DIC-like or oblique contrast which can be moved across the field of view by rotating the analyser. I have had particularly good results with plan phase X4 and X20 objectives, but that may be coincidental. Obviously the fact that the contrast-enhancing effects are shown across only part of the field gives problems with evenness of illumination, but this can be addressed in post processing. This technique does not always work, but when it does it can give very useful results.
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blepharopsis



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PostPosted: Fri Dec 26, 2014 12:42 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The level of detail you captured in #2 and #5 is spectacular!
I know I'll be checking spider webs for dead moths and butterflies this spring; the variations in the form of proboscis are definitely worth exploring Smile
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carlos.uruguay



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PostPosted: Fri Dec 26, 2014 1:36 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Very great!
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Jacek



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PostPosted: Fri Dec 26, 2014 1:54 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Super !
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Cactusdave



Joined: 09 Jun 2009
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PostPosted: Sat Dec 27, 2014 2:26 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks Jacek, Carlos and Blepharopsis. It's amusing to see this thread rising from the dead and getting some new viewers. There are so many amazing images locked away in older posts, especially by the grandmasters Krebs and Littlefield. Very Happy
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Olympusman



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PostPosted: Sat Dec 27, 2014 2:07 pm    Post subject: Proboscis Reply with quote

Dave,
Loverly series. I gotta get off my ##### and snip some these probosci and give them the works.

Mike
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