This video* is hypnotic and illuminating — one might even say joyful, and it is joyful to me to watch it. But if I was a bacterium, alga, or protist (what these rotifers are hoping to get for dinner), I’d feel a bit different. That gauntlet about halfway through the video? Talk about a swirling vortex of rotiferan doom, with their mechanical jaws snapping like clockwork at the bottom of each whirling trap (look for the jaws chugging like pistons about 1/4-1/3 of the way down each gullet).
Repeat after me: “The penitent protist shall pass . . .the penitent protist shall pass . . . ”
As you can see rotifers (literally “wheel bearers”) are so called from the accessories on their foreheads involved in hoovering up dinner. And they are truly amazing creatures. To learn more about bdelloid rotifers (including some gorgeous SEM shots of their jaws) and their alternative lifestyles, see two posts from early in this blog’s life: Lesbian Necrophiliac Bdelloid Rotifers (and the Scientists who Love Them)Parts 1 and 2. The above video provides a good illustration of why they are called “bdelloid”, or leech-like rotifers. They move just like inchworms or leeches**:
Psi Wavefunction did point out, however, that rotifers are *not* the smallest animals. Rotifers are animals (not protists), but as for what the smallest animals might be, I will leave for another day.
*for which I am endebted to the twitter feed of Chris Mah at the Echinoblog
**which are, by the way, annelids (from the last post — see the tree at the bottom) in the Clitellata — look for the Hirudinea. Look for the earthworms just above them in the Lumbricidae. And, just below them but also in the Clitellata (and hence annelids) is the sludge worm Tubifex Tubifex in the Tubificidae — from here, remember?)