We present an inexpensive apparatus for bright field and fluorescence microscopy with video capture, suitable for introductory laboratory courses. Experiments on Brownian motion and the Boltzmann distribution of suspended particles in a gravitational field are described. The Boltzmann constant is measured in three ways, and the results fall within 15% of the accepted value.
The nematode Caenorhabditis elegans is an excellent model organism for a systems-level understanding of neural circuits and behavior. Advances in the quantitative analyses of behavior and neuronal activity, and the development of new technologies to precisely control and monitor the workings of interconnected circuits, now allow investigations into the molecular, cellular, and systems-level strategies that transform sensory inputs into precise behavioral outcomes.
Caenorhabditis elegans is a filter feeder: it draws bacteria suspended in liquid into its pharynx, traps the bacteria, and ejects the liquid. How pharyngeal pumping simultaneously transports and filters food particles has been poorly understood. Here, we use high-speed video microscopy to define the detailed workings of pharyngeal mechanics. The buccal cavity and metastomal flaps regulate the flow of dense bacterial suspensions and exclude excessively large particles from entering the pharynx. A complex sequence of contractions and relaxations transports food particles in two successive trap stages before passage into the terminal bulb and intestine. Filtering occurs at each trap as bacteria are concentrated in the central lumen while fluids are expelled radially through three apical channels. Experiments with microspheres show that the C. elegans pharynx, in combination with the buccal cavity, is tuned to specifically catch and transport particles of a size range corresponding to most soil bacteria.