A mesmerizing short film has condensed a salamander’s embryonic development from about three weeks down to approximately six minutes.
‘Becoming,’ created by Dutch director Jan van IJken, captures an amphibious alpine newt transforming from a single cell into a fully-formed organism in stunning detail.
It begins by showing the ‘universal process’ of a single newt cell dividing and multiplying into many cells – a process called embryogenesis.
IJken describes this process as the ‘miraculous genesis of animal life.’
‘We see the “making of” a salamander in its transparent egg from fertilization to hatching,’ according to IJken’s website.
‘The first stages of embryonic development are roughly the same for all animals, including humans.
‘In the film, we can observe a universal process which is normally invisible: the very beginning of an animal’s life.
‘A single cell is transformed into a complete, complex living organism with a beating heart and running bloodstream,’ he added.
With the help of microscopes, IJken was able to shoot a time-lapse video of the alpine newt transforming from a single-celled zygote into hatched larvae, Aeon noted.
Every stage of embryogenesis is shown in the six-minute film, IJken said.
First, the single-celled zygote undergoes several rounds of ‘cleavage,’ wherein one cell divides into multiple, smaller cells, without an increase in mass.
At this point, the embryo has produced so many cells that it becomes a blastula, or a ball of cells.
The blastula then begins the gastrulation process.
This is when the cells fold into each other, in order to create three different layers of cells – the ectoderm, the mesoderm and the endoderm.
The ectoderm encompasses an animal’s nervous system, while the mesoderm forms to create muscles and connective tissues.
Finally, the endoderm serves as the basis for the digestive system and other internal organs.
From there, the embryo begins the process of neurulation, wherein the ectoderm transforms into neural tissue and the brain and spinal cord are formed.
Lastly, organogenesis begins, which results in the formation of the creature’s major organs.
At this point, the newt’s beating heart and eyes can be seen, while the larvae has hatched from its egg.
WHAT IS AN AMPHIBIOUS ALPINE NEWT?
The alpine newt, or Ichthyosaura alpestris, is a type of salamander.
Alpine newts are native to central and southern Europe and often sport a mottled brown color.
However, during mating season, males have a dark blue color on their backs, as well as white and black spots on their legs and a bright orange colored belly.
Males can grow to be up to 9cm long, while females can become as large as 12cm long.
Alpine newts breed in shallow water, where larvae hatch and later eat plankton.
They often live in forests when not reproducing, particularly in undergrowths.