School of Life Sciences | Ask A Biologist

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2000, Summer

Summer 2000 Mystery Image

Summer 2000 Mystery Image
Image by Gregory Johnson

The summer was full of wonderful guesses.  So, what is it?!

How about a cross-section of a stem and seven small leaves (microphylls) from an Australian Beefwood (Casuarina cunninghamiana).  A special Ultraviolet (UV) light was used to reveal the different colors under a microscope.  Items under a UV-lamp fluoresce and do not look the same color as under daylight. The red fluorescence is from chlorophyll in the very small pentagon shaped leaves. The blue fluorescence is from secondary metabolites in the vascular (central) and epidermal (outer) tissue.  

This beefwood appears to have needles when looking with the unaided eye, which are not found in this taxonomic group. Investigating with a UV microscope, revealed that instead of a single needle this is a stem with seven small leaves. Not everything is as it appears to our eye.

Many thanks to Gregory Johnson for another great image.


For those of you that are curious, here are some numbers from our list of guesses. We did have one person (an expert in forest genetics) that did correctly identify this image.

  • 59% guessed that it was some type of ocean or sea animal.
  • 27% guessed that it was part of a plant
  • 11% guessed that was virus of some type

Some of the creative single answers are listed below.

  • A sun flower
  • 7 fishes diving into water
  • A type of choral
  • Sea sponge
  • It is a computer graphically drawn "neon flower"
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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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.