Sea Urchins from the Inside-Out

An image similar to the one above appears as part of Science Magazine’s interactive poster on sea urchins that appeared as part of this week’s issue. What we’re looking at is cell division. The image comes from the University of Washington Center for Cell Dynamics, the work of George von Dassow.

In my previous post, I asked questions about use of “enhanced color,” and the images of cells call to mind similar questions. I assume that what’s going on is simple color-coding of different cell structures (part of what gives me that idea is an image about a third of the way down the associated page on cytokinesis and a QuickTime showing the actin filaments and microtubules in cross section, side by side). The technique for observing the different cell structures remains a mystery, since I can find no clues on the website, but it seems like an interesting part of the story.

The gallery page at the Center for Cell Dynamics offers more still images and movies, as well as at least one spiffy little interactive. Given the warning at the top of the gallery page, I have the impression they don’t think of these movies as anything of interest to a broad audience, but I have to say, these are pretty compelling visuals. And I, as a layperson, would love to know more about what I’m looking at and where the images came from.

As far as the color choice, I might suggest something a little different. My slight color-blindness makes discerning the difference between red and green slightly tricky at points, so it’d be a lot easier if the two separate images were colored, say, blue and yellow or somesuch. A spiffy article entitled “Color Theory for the Color Blind” does a nice job introducing some of the issues or percention and contrast, although it talks mainly about web pages. Some answers might also lie in a book I just acquired that describes the physiology of vision and how it relates to art, but I have yet to get far enough into it to say.

By the bye, the Science poster is part of a special issue that focuses on the Sea Urchin Genome. Turns out the little critters have played an important role in the last century and a half, giving biologists clues to pronuclear fusion, cromosonal development, the role of mRNA, gene expression, and on and on. Sea urchins lie near an important branching point on the evolutionary tree, making its genomic sequence of great interest. Go figure!