School of Life Sciences | Ask A Biologist

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Why is Rudolp's nose red?

1998, Summer

Summer 1998 Mystery Image

Summer 1998 Mystery Image
Photo by William Sharp

This is a scanning electron micrograph of the surface of an oak leaf. The star shaped structures located on the under surface of the live oak leaf are called "trichomes" or hairs. When seen without a microscope, the leaf might look non-shiny, or soft and velvety. The function of the trichomes is not completely understood, but it is thought that they may help to control the micro environment in the critical areas around stomates (openings in the leaf used to get carbon dioxide into the leaf and oxygen out). For example, if the air around the tree is very dry, open stomates would allow water from interior cells of the leaf to evaporate and disrupt the cells. Trichomes help to hold a layer of humid air close to the leaf surface and prevent drying. They may also provide shelter for small creatures who live on the leaf's surface.


Congratulations to Beth, Tom and Victoria for guessing the correct answer. You might be asking, "how did they guess that?" We are not certain, but they might have been playing our interactive Guessing Game and found the answer. Congratulations to everyone and thank you for playing!

For those of you that are curious, here are some numbers from our list of guesses.

  • 23% guessed that the image was some kind of sea or ocean creature.
  • 20% guessed that it was some kind of plant or part of a plant.
  • 20% guessed that it was bacteria or micro organisms.
  • 10% guessed that was a starfish.
  • 6% guessed that it was hair.
  • 6% guessed that it was an image of parasites.

Some of the creative single answers are listed below.

  • Organisms living on a sponge in your kitchen
  • Stomach of a herbivore.
  • Inside of the small intestines
  • Bread mold
  • Surface of a tongue
  • Deadly bacteria marching across a living surface
ant, photo by Alex Wild

It's like having your own microscope! Visit our Zoom Gallery to explore and have fun zooming in and moving around each image.

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Be part of Ask A Biologist

by volunteering, or simply sending us feedback on the site. Scientists, teachers, writers, illustrators, and translators are all important to the program. If you are interested in helping with the website we have a Volunteer page to get the process started.

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ant, photo by Alex Wild

It's like having your own microscope! Visit our Zoom Gallery to explore and have fun zooming in and moving around each image.

Share to Google Classroom

Be part of Ask A Biologist

by volunteering, or simply sending us feedback on the site. Scientists, teachers, writers, illustrators, and translators are all important to the program. If you are interested in helping with the website we have a Volunteer page to get the process started.