In a feat of DIY time lapse filmmaking at a microscopic scale, wildlife filmmaker and photographer Francis Chee captured the cell division of a Rana temporaria common frog egg. Watch it transform from a few cells to… hundreds of thousands? A few million?
The 23 second time lapse captures a 33 hour process. Given a few additional days, a tadpole will hatch from this egg. Chee, who has a PhD in Biology and has worked as a scientist, is in the process of filming an entire egg-to-tadpole time lapse video. Of the image capture techniques demonstrated above, he writes:
…it was done with a custom designed microscope based on the “infinity optical design” It is not available by any manufacturer. I built it. I used LEDs and relevant optics to light the egg. They too were custom designed by me. The whole microscope sits on anti-vibration table. I have to say that it doesn’t matter too much what microscope people use to perform this. There are countless other variables involved in performing this tricky shot, such as for example: the ambient temperature during shooting; the time at which the eggs were collected; the handling skills of the operator; the type of water used; lenses; quality of camera etc…
Update: Here’s his follow-up video of another zygote developing in time lapse. From Chee’s notes: “…it is hard to distinguish the individual cells, formation of the neural crest and embryonic eyes and gill and tail development. The last scene is a large magnification of blood flow within the embryonic gills.”Next: How an Embryo Grows, a bacteria growth time lapse, Hunting for microbes in Central Park’s murkiest waters, and how to create a DIY phone microscope. Bonus: Banggai Cardinalfish eggs.