- New York City is teeming with life, much of which lives in a world unseen – in the city’s thousands of puddles, lakes, and ponds.
- Underwater, trillions of bacteria,fungi, and other microbes move about, forming the base of our ecosystem.
- We teamed up with Sally Warring, who runs the organisation Pondlife, to take a closer look.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
Following is a transcript of the video.
These rotating orbs are alive. Each one is a colony of hundreds of cells which work together to form the lifeform volvox. Volvox is a resident of Brooklyn. But it’s just one of trillions of microbes in New York City.
This is biologist Sally Warring. She heads up the project Pondlife. Which explores microscopic lifeforms in New York City ponds. And as she’s discovered, there’s a lot of it.
This is water from a garden pond in Bushwick, Brooklyn. It contains single-celled organisms called coleps which are caught up in a dance. It almost looks romantic. And if you look extra close, you spot tiny hairs on their body called cilia, which they use to move around and hunt prey.
Central Park has loads of microbial life, too. This is a “spirogyra highway.” They’re made of cells that contain helix-shaped structures. And those other dots moving along them? Those are microbes called ciliates. They use the spirogyra like a highway to get around.
Up Central Park, Warring found another organism called oscillatoria. Each strand is an oscillating colony of bacteria.
These diatoms are in another NYC pond. They’re cells of algae inside tiny glass houses and we really need them around. Through photosynthesis, diatoms produce at least 25% of the oxygen we breathe.
Studying microbes helps us understand how complex life evolved. Single-celled organisms first evolved around 3.5 billion years ago. Later, came colonial microbes like Tetrabaena and eudorina. Further on in evolutionary history, multicellular organisms, like volvox, emerged.
We were so mesmerised by these videos, we asked Warring to take us into the field with her. In early 2019, we travelled around NYC testing street puddle water. We expected to see loads of microbe because, you know, it’s New York! But most of the samples turned up empty. In fact, this was the only movement we saw. Warring says it might have been due to weather. It was still winter in NYC and microbes are more active in summer. But until we have proof, we’re running with another theory. NYC streets may not be that filthy after all.
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