See Me

See Me

Are you ready to solve this week’s science mystery picture and pick up the latest in research along the way? If you know the identity of this object, don’t give it away , but share some interesting (or obscure!) fact about it. Don’t be shy, let your imagination fly. 

Hint: This object has the fastest response to light in the biological world.

Why is this cool? A recent study revealed the unexpected finding that the initial response to light was mechanical: light triggered tiny (less than one micrometer) synchronized contractions in this array that then opened mechano-sensitive ion channels to change distribution of electric charge across the surface. This form of signaling is known as mechanotransduction and is faster than more conventional chemical signaling. Do you know of a human sense that uses mechanical signaling? 

Image Detail: False colored scanning electron micrograph that is magnified 2,500 times if printed at 10 cm. 

Inspiration for Title: THE WHO – See Me, Feel Me – Listening to You (1975)

#ISeeTheWorldWithScience     #ScienceSunday  

[Answer: http://goo.gl/JgMl3o ]

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177 Responses to See Me

  1. Rama Drama says:


    Buried swords of the Zulu tribe excavated from Southern Alps ? (Now you know why I flunked Biology :)). I will wait for the smarter ones to answer it and check it later in the day 🙂 Thanks for spreading science Rajini Rao 🙂


  2. I’m guessing this is the segmented eye of an insect? 


    I do know that hearing involves vibrating tiny hairs deep inside delicate bones of your cochlea. Is that mechanical enough? =)


    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cochlea

  3. Jim Carver says:


    Can you find some of these around a construction area?


  4. part of a venus flytrap?

  5. Rajini Rao says:


    Rama Drama , I like your guess as much as I love your profile name. Thank you for breaking the ice (I was beginning to worry that my picture choice was too blah). Yes, do check back later, I’m sure the answer will be here by then. 🙂

  6. Ethan Smith says:


    Really curious what the feathery looking parts are. Seems so heterogeneous.

  7. Rajini Rao says:


    Daniel Estrada , thanks for playing and yes, the vibrating hairs on the hair cells of the inner ear convey mechanical movement (displacement of the hair bundle) directly into opening (“gating”) of mechano-sensitive ion channels, that start the process of hearing. 

  8. Rajini Rao says:


    Jim Carver , if the construction area has lots of overripe bananas, perhaps? 😉

  9. Rajini Rao says:


    Ethan Smith , those spikes are intriguing, I agree. They are more like little hairs. 

  10. Rajini Rao says:


    Daniel Sprouse , what a great guess (but no). The Venus Fly Trap does have mechanosensitive hairs but those are not involved in sensing light. 

  11. jackie says:


    If I’m correct….. the average life span is about 3 days. Yes? Rajini Rao 


  12. I really don’t know what this is which gives fastest response to light, but my guess is These are tomatoes holding swords! 😉


    Curious to know the actual answer.

  13. Rajini Rao says:


    Kay Shaw , they won’t hurt us but they are a cause for aggravation when we don’t get to have our way with them 😉

  14. Jim Carver says:


    I’m really lost now.

  15. Rajini Rao says:


    Oh good, Jim Carver 😀


  16. That picture looks like Drosophila eye structure. And the feather like things must be cones.

  17. Jim Carver says:


    Sravani Balumuri How does that relate to bananas?


    Oh, flies.


  18. Is it something that could be a topping on ice cream?

  19. Rajini Rao says:


    jackie jordan , now you have me googling feverishly! I know the owner of this object lives for longer than 3 days but is the structure itself that short lived? 

  20. Rajini Rao says:


    On one of the share, someone said raspberries, Matt Kevins . Now those could be used as ice cream topping 🙂


  21. Think more domestic! It has so many uses it’s pretty much a life line

  22. Arnav Kalra says:


    I’m so lost. Will be checking back later. Looks like quills with plums. Maybe a writer’s den.

  23. Rajini Rao says:


    Hmm, Michael Taylor , you may be flying behind the wrong clue 😀


    It is useful to scientists, and to the owner of this object itself. 

  24. jackie says:


    Rajini Rao I’m no scientist, but I was thinking the average life span of the common house variety only lived about 3 days.

  25. Jim Carver says:


    I’m going with rods and cones in a fruit fly.

  26. Rajini Rao says:


    jackie jordan , Google informs me that the common house variety and the one that loves my bananas can hang around for 15-30 days. Drat them. 

  27. jackie says:


    I was wrong about the lifespan (which is actually 15-20 days). Maybe its only 3 days in my house…. hahaha.

  28. Samir Patil says:


    The feathers must be some sort of Cilia. Are the red tomatoes some sort of muscle cells


  29. There life span is pretty long if you consider how much faster they age than we do

  30. Rajini Rao says:


    You must have good reflexes, jackie jordan 🙂 Better at fly fu than google fu?


  31. The owner could not go a day without theirs!

  32. Jim Carver says:


    jackie jordan Rajini Rao Depends on temperature. The ones in Colorado can last far longer if it is very cool. Down here in the Texas heat…it could be only 3-5 days.


  33. A lot of people have them in there house sometimes more than one

  34. jackie says:


    Then the more moderate temps of my Ohio River Valley area must seem positively resort like to them.


    Jim Carver 


  35. Mega cool Rajini Rao and even though I have absolutely no idea what it is, the beauty of science never fails to astound me 

  36. Rajini Rao says:


    Agree, Rebecca Rippin . The detail in something so small is fascinating. You’ve definitely tried to obliterate the owner of this object in your kitchen, although I’m sure yours is spotless 🙂

  37. Rajini Rao says:


    Tom Willingham , so that’s the answer to my second question (further down my post), right? But not the identity of the object itself. 


  38. Guardian of the outhouse


  39. in humans it is  sound, pressure, or movement( hearing, touch and balance).


    may be the image is  a Scanning electron microscopy (SEM) image of the surface of a house fly eye

  40. Rajini Rao says:


    LOL, Chris Bernier . Yes they are. 


  41. Nothing I want in my mouth while eating fruit … XD


    Have a nice week my dear friend Rajini Rao … 🙂

  42. Rajini Rao says:


    Sumeet Sharma , thank you for bringing up touch (in addition to hearing and balance) in answer to my second question. Touch is sensed by mechanosensation, in response to stretch. The new finding relating to the picture shown is that light triggered a breakdown of one lipid (PIP2) into another (DAG), reducing the surface area of the membrane and increasing the tension.

  43. Rajini Rao says:


    Magnus Fahlén , this thing is going to be around your fruit though 😉 


  44. Only follow this link if you want the answer (split to avoid auto resolution): http:// goo.gl / 3ezeWm

  45. Jim Carver says:


    They’re high in protein and oh so good when lightly toasted and a touch of sea salt.


  46. Is it a thingy that has wings but prefers not to fly?


  47. So I’ve understood Rajini Rao since it’s the eye of a fruit fly … 🙂

  48. Rajini Rao says:


    Oleg Mihailik , the thingie sees 5 times faster than we do. 

  49. Jim Carver says:


    Turns wine into vinegar.

  50. Sally Meding says:


    It sure sees better than we do!


  51. Everyone’s ideas raise thoughts of many, many things

  52. Rajini Rao says:


    Sherry Steele , rubies? 🙂


  53. This looks like an up close raspberry.

  54. Rajini Rao says:


    David Andrews , all of a sudden my back feels like a good scratch 🙂


  55. Very fast indeed. Mr. Myiagi call it ‘you beginner luck’.

  56. Rajini Rao says:


    Melissa Fisher , here’s what a strawberry macro looks like..it’s beautiful: http://www.imageafter.com/dbase/images/nature_food/b4nature_food009.jpg


    And here’s a raspberry macro shot, it really is a good guess!


    http://goo.gl/zyYfhJ

  57. Rajini Rao says:


    Did I say berries were fruits, Tom Willingham ? 🙂 I was thinking of bananas. The bane of my kitchen and ultimately fated for banana bread. 


  58. Mechanical transmission? When one person touches the other?


    You never said has to be limited to one person 😛

  59. Rajini Rao says:


    fan tai , that’s correct. Touch is a form of mechanical transmission. The sense of touch is picked up by ion channels that are activated by stretch. 

  60. tony Pierre says:


    Deep sea marine tube plant

  61. Matt Kuenzel says:


    5 x faster — at the cellular level or reaction time? And what are the function of the stalk-like things?


  62. I am guessing it is a blooming flower that responds to sunlight.


  63. Time flies like an arrow, fruit flies like a banana. That’s about all I have to contribute.

  64. Kurt Pfirter says:


    We have them in our garden, maybe.

  65. Rajini Rao says:


    Matt Kuenzel  5x faster in reaction time which is thought to be because mechanotransduction is faster than chemical reaction at a cellular level. Those stalk-like things..hmm 🙂

  66. Rajini Rao says:


    James Karaganis , I see that you did let your imagination fly, and followed my directions like an arrow. 

  67. Rajini Rao says:


    Kurt Pfirter , sure..and in your house too, no doubt. 


    Vince Peralta , that’s a lovely idea (if not the right answer). I’ll have to dig into photoreception and flower opening. That probably has to do with movement of plant auxins (hormones) in response to light??


  68. Part of the eye perhaps?


  69. One drug development company has evolved a proprietary “Methuselah” strain of the organism in question. Pictured is a portion of that organism’s anatomy. 


  70. As in “immortalized”?


  71. Rajini Rao   would hearing qualify as mechanical transmission?


  72. As in especially long-lived — 3 times average.


  73. Tom Willingham raspberry is aggregate fruit 🙂


    Picture can’t be of any of a fruit – magnification eliminates this option. ( if one decided to pay attention and think 😉 )


    Pests love smell of acetone ( nail polish remover) .

  74. Rajini Rao says:


    Leszek Dziędziewicki , Tom was sneaky and put the right answer under another post 🙂 That’s neat about the aggregate fruit..a pineapple is another, I’m guessing. Some fruits come from entire inflorescences. 

  75. Rajini Rao says:


    I’m a disgrace to my Botany degree, Tom Willingham . Now you know that I was actually reading novels in class (as my teacher suspected) 😀


  76. Even though they are pretty, I hate falsely coloured electron micrographs. Especially without a scale bar.


    So yeah, just looking at the picture without any added information, I’d have guessed raspberries 😉

  77. Rajini Rao says:


    Folmer Fredslund , read the post for the scale bar. Louise Hughes had a terrific response to a complaint about false coloring in her post on a electron microscopy image calendar. 


  78. Rajini Rao


    But then I’d have to print it 😉


    Anyways I think it was a very nice quiz! I guess im just irritated that I didn’t guess it 🙂

  79. Rajini Rao says:


    Here is Louise Hughes ‘s response re. false coloring from her post linked below: “we have a much better perception of colour than we do distinguishing between different levels of grey. Most light microscope images are also taken in grey scale, the colour is artificially added later by processing, depending on what wavelength you are using (or that produces the best image). This is usually not done in electron microscopy unless the image is a stereo pair or a 3d model built from the data, and usually for the same reasons as stated above. It is perfectly acceptable to colour images for presentation and illustration purposes and I have presented them at international conferences for EM without issue, you simply need to state what had been done to the image.” See more http://goo.gl/uI4B5O


    P.S. All images are captured digitally these days. In those colorful confocal microscope images that are used in research, fluorescence signal is distinguished by the wavelength of the fluorophore and can be changed to any color that one desires. The point is to see the specifics of the object being imaged (location, appearance, interaction, etc.)- the color is simply a visual aid. 

  80. Rajini Rao says:


    Right, histochemistry is the same..the color reaction is only to visualize the labelled tissue or cell type. 

  81. Rajini Rao says:


    L McGarity provided an excellent link to a paper on mechanotransduction, in this comment on the Community reshare: “The presence of isometric tension (prestress) at all levels of these multiscale networks ensures that various mechanotransduction mechanisms proceed at the same time and produce a coordinated response. Future research may require analysis, abstract thought, and modeling of tensionally integrated (tensegrity) systems of mechanotransduction control.”


    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/m/pubmed/16675838/


  82. Would you prefer white or vermilion wine with your fruit?


    BTW they love my beer 😦 

  83. Rajini Rao says:


    Tensegrity is a new term for me, Tom Willingham .


    Sy Bernot , they sometimes drown in my red, but I fish them out 🙂


  84. I only see the red ones, my vacuum dispatches them before they drink too much.  

  85. Jeff G says:


    I love that your inspired by the Who…Thanks.

  86. Rajini Rao says:


    Thex Dar , good answer on the fly 🙂


    Jeff G , finally someone noticed, thank you! 


  87. I am way out of my depth but am learning so much tonight Rajini Rao and everyone else in this awesome thread thank you!!


  88. I mean eye cells of bees

  89. Rajini Rao says:


    Possibly my favorite, ❤

  90. Joe Repka says:


    An extra +1 for this.


  91. Can’t believe I missed this one even with notifications enabled, and the answer (as I would have guessed) flew by nearly an hour ago.


    Anyway, I look forward to seeing more of these.


  92. a strawberry is not a berry but a banana is

  93. Dat Grl says:


    it looks like taste buds

  94. Rajini Rao says:


    Raphael Ndem , next time I’ll bzzz you 🙂


    Martin Algate , we are bemused and bewildered by botany!


  95. When do we get the answer?!?!

  96. Rajini Rao says:


    Systems Biology  here is the abstract of the Science paper: http://www.sciencemag.org/content/338/6104/260


    and the news story: http://www.cam.ac.uk/research/news/surprising-solution-to-fly-eye-mystery


    Pix source now added to the post 🙂


  97. Sometimes they need a good cleaning?

  98. Rajini Rao says:


    Randy Bressler , hmm. You mean like the eyeglasses you wear? 

  99. Rajini Rao says:


    Luscious thought, but no Lord Jack Isaacs 🙂 The owner of this object does have a fondness for fruits. Think bananas, for example. 


  100. Very interesting and unexpected (to me). Definitely some interesting differences from mammalian phototransduction. 


    The paper is a tour-de-force. Thank you for sharing (I stopped following the fly phototransduction field years ago).

  101. Rajini Rao says:


    Mark Bruce , the insect eye beats us on speed but is quite poor with resolution. 


    Systems Biology , it’s possible that similar mechanical effects will be seen in mammalian structures like cilia, filopodia, etc. that have large surface to volume ratios. 


  102. Is it a detail from one of those big squirt guns? You know, something like, Aquablaster? Or is it, Melanogaster? 

  103. Rajini Rao says:


    That must be a new species, Aquablaster melanogaster 🙂


  104. That’s just dros, Rajini Rao. Fascinating about the mechanotransduction. I have never heard of such a system. 


  105. Its a domestic fly eyes?


  106. I see you alright Rajini Rao or perhaps with this array I’d probably be seeing a dozen or so of you 🙂  Just wanted to say this is an amazing macro (2500x wow!  Amazing SEM imaging power)  Thanks for another fun/educational post

  107. Patrick Q says:


    A fly’s eye. The feather like things help the fly to navigate by providing information on wind flow.


  108. A virus of the iris, that makes the ‘I’ ball stretch. I maybe out of sight with reduction of light.


  109. Oh man, I know this… aaugh, It’s really gonna bug me. It’s flying around in my head, but I can’t quite catch it…

  110. Felix He says:


    It is so easy…i mean it is so easy to find information about it on internet by google image searcher.  🙂   

  111. Cynthia Bush says:


    Rajini, sorry “eye” missed out seeing this!


    Great post, & yes, Tom, you are quick as ever… ❤

  112. C.A. Palma says:


    Interesting! It appears that making/streaming an animated Gif for this tiny Mendelian archetype would need a very broadband internet connection! Thank heavens we are slow movie watchers, otherwise we would have had to make internet faster with new technologies years ago! (wink wink). Also, the original article is sold as phototransduction but as Rajini Rao carefully explains it is rather just mechanotransduction, i.e. the mechanics are in the “signaling-” and not in the “photo-” pathway. Anywho, I like to think that we are “slow watchers” because we do not think with our hypothalamus… instead we just “get” happy, angry and fall in love with it ;)… which is… much better… right?

  113. Cynthia Bush says:


    C.A., actually enjoy my “alligator” brain – yes, I’m at UF!


    The amygdala is fascinating… never seem to tire of it.


    This is such a fascinating post, I will secrete endorphins for at least an hour! ❤

  114. Rajini Rao says:


    Thanks to John Christopher , Chris Rysdale , Pastiche – able for the clever hints in your answers. Patrick Q , I was wondering about the function of those tiny hairs, thanks. Felix He , the point of this post is not really to guess the identity of the image 😉 If you can figure it out, let me know (and Google won’t help you there!).

  115. Rajini Rao says:


    C.A. Palma  and Cynthia Bush , glad that the endorphins are flowing 🙂 It’s good to be reminded that we take the incredible fast cellular response to light and put it through a slower and more subjective filter. 

  116. Felix He says:


    Rajini Rao  I think your point was showing some features of eye of fly through science way.  And in fact my intention was show some guessers who didn’t know such things how to easily find the detail information about the object on the image by google it.(And with bit of peacock)  🙂

  117. Rajini Rao says:


    Felix He , I like peacocks (both feathered and human varieties)! Indeed, this post is a great showcase for peacocks 🙂


    However, to be a peacock on this post, one has to do more than announce that the image can be identified easily by a reverse Google search (I think that most people who responded know that already). You would need to convey that you knew the identity using some witty/funny/punny statement OR provide some interesting fact about the fly eye that others may not know. So let’s see those feathers 🙂

  118. Patrick Q says:


    Rajini Rao The true function of the “feathers” isnt known for sure, but that is the leading hypothesis the last I heard. :)


  119. It’s really amazing.. Some things you can never imagine..

  120. Rajini Rao says:


    I see what you did there, jyothi sriram 🙂


  121. Seems to like dipters compound eye. And about a human mechanotransductional signaling I think it is the hearing…

  122. Rajini Rao says:


    Top of the class, Heesham Cedrus 🙂


  123. If “I” may, let us reVIEW… It’s gnot a rasberry, it’s gnot a deep-“sea” tube worm,… oh!, “I” don’t gknow! Anyways, time “flies” when you’re having fun, so be mindfull gnot to let your bananas linger to long, or mold (and/or other fungal…) spores might come to rest on your bananas, and your fruit flies might get replaced by fungus gnats! You “see”, science can be fun! (sorry, when I get overly tired – I get silly and lose my ability to spell) #Stuntin’ like a “g+”#

  124. Rajini Rao says:


    You mite be tired but that was quite a punderstorm all in one comment, Duane Mansfield . I’m glad the long list of comments did not make you flea. 

  125. Jim Carver says:


    Could be, but the last half of this has been parasitic for me.


  126. ah, clever! I’m new to “g+” (my 1st. day), and I hope that I am not being too much of a pest (if this keeps-up, you might have to enlist the services of an (?) Etomologist… or an extermanator. lol!). I wanted to “like” your comment, but there is no “like button” (yes, I’m a facebook runaway). I’m guessing that that is what a “+1” is, but I haven’t quite figured that out… YET. Thanks for being patient with me (I hope…)

  127. Anand V.L. says:


    Interestingly, these guys make the longest swimmers in nature 😉


  128. Well it has a band gap like a photo-detector but mother nature made it. 


  129. I just realized this thread was almost a month old.

  130. Rajini Rao says:


    Alan Henderson long enough that I had to double check the answer myself 🙂


  131. For me it looks like multi eye of some fly..

  132. Steg human says:


    A quick clean of the eyes with the front legs, and its off to the next rotting mango.


  133. Lindo.meu.amor geraldo correia marinho


  134. Coisa


    Linda.qui.amo.muito


  135. PLUMAS EMPEZANDO A SALIR…


    DEL AGUN AVE.

  136. Niloy Kundu says:


    very very nice pic


  137. Do you make this stuff


  138. Mother – nature, very talented!!!!


  139. that’s totally awesome lol


  140. Nitu Sharma Nitu Sharma hi

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