ThesisPDF Available

Invisibilia: the colors of bacteria



Color is fundamental for any form of life on Earth. Life as we know it, is only possible by the presence of oxygen, in which plants, algae, and cyanobacteria use a greenish pigment— chlorophyll—as a basis for photosynthesis. In nature, color plays different roles in different species, but in general its responsible for mechanisms that guide evolutionary processes, such as camouflage, aposematism, and communication. Color can materialize at different levels, some of which are not perceptible to humans, for example outside of the visible light spectrum and on a microscopic scale, where bacteria and viruses are found. Bacteria are present in virtually all environments, from human skin to the deep ocean, and are responsible for important biological processes, such as the decomposition of organic matter and the fixation of nitrogen in the soil. Despite their microscopic sizes, bacteria found ways along the evolutionary path to become perceptible to other organisms, through the production of odors and colors. The coloring found in bacteria is the result of the production of several pigments like carotenoid and melanin, which allow them to express a wide color palette, from purple to red. As in other organisms, colors also play a fundamental role in the survival of bacteria, which are proven by science, such as the antibiotic response and as a form of protection against ultraviolet rays and freezing. However, there are still many gaps in the knowledge about how pigment production in these microorganisms can be associated with communication. Invisibilia brings a brief history of colors in nature, highlighting how bacteria are capable of producing color, and questioning how the visualization and materialization of these microscopic beings could create new meanings to us.
Felipe Shibuya
Department of Art, College of Arts and Sciences
The State University of New York at Buffalo
Assistant Professor
Department of Art, College of Arts and Sciences
The State University of New York at Buffalo
Associate Professor
Department of Art, College of Arts and Sciences
The State University of New York at Buffalo
thesis presented by
to the
MAY, 2021
in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of
olor is fundamental for any form of life on Earth. Life as we know it, is only possible by the
presence of oxygen, in which plants, algae, and cyanobacteria use a greenish pigment—
chlorophyll—as a basis for photosynthesis. In nature, color plays different roles in different
species, but in general its responsible for mechanisms that guide evolutionary processes, such
as camouflage, aposematism, and communication. Color can materialize at different levels,
some of which are not perceptible to humans, for example outside of the visible light
spectrum and on a microscopic scale, where bacteria and viruses are found. Bacteria are
present in virtually all environments, from human skin to the deep ocean, and are responsible
for important biological processes, such as the decomposition of organic matter and the
fixation of nitrogen in the soil. Despite their microscopic sizes, bacteria found ways along the
evolutionary path to become perceptible to other organisms, through the production of odors
and colors. The coloring found in bacteria is the result of the production of several pigments
like carotenoid and melanin, which allow them to express a wide color palette, from purple to
red. As in other organisms, colors also play a fundamental role in the survival of bacteria,
which are proven by science, such as the antibiotic response and as a form of protection
against ultraviolet rays and freezing. However, there are still many gaps in the knowledge
about how pigment production in these microorganisms can be associated with
communication. Invisibilia brings a brief history of colors in nature, highlighting how bacteria
are capable of producing color, and questioning how the visualization and materialization of
these microscopic beings could create new meanings to us.
Table of Contents
Living Beings and Colors
The Organization of Colors and Natural History
Bacteria, Colors, and Art
36 Eduardo Kac
38 Peta Clancy
39 JoWonder
41 Marta de Menezes
43 Erno-Erik Raitanen
44 Sonja Bäumel
46 Tal Danino
47 Simon Park
49 Tarah Rhoda
50 Hunter Cole
52 Nicole Clouston
54 Adam Brown
(In)visible Bacteria
Invisibilia: A Bacterial Color Guide
Background Readings
85 Self-utopia
88 June
90 Proximal Spaces
olors* are so fundamental to us that without them life on
the planet would be unsustainable. They are present
everywhere and enable the most diverse functions. For
example, the colors of natural foods we eat, such as fruits
and vegetables, are associated with substances and vitamins
beneficial to the body, like the green color, which comes
from chlorophyll and helps in the production of vitamin A,
and the colors yellow and orange, synthesized by beta-
carotene, which help the production of vitamin B3.
In nature, color rules the life of all organisms.
However, for some, color is an evident factor in the survival
equation. The Arctic Fox (Vulpes lagopus) for example, is an
iconic canid known to inhabit the icy arctic regions of the
northern hemisphere, and its existence in these areas is only
possible due to the evolutionary adaptations that this
species has undergone over time. The dense coat is among
*To maintain the standardization of the writing of this thesis, the word color and its derivations will be used to refer to pure color, that is,
the hue without references to how dull or saturated, or dark and light, that color is.
these adaptations, providing the ideal thermal insulation for
the fox to withstand temperatures that reach 70 °C. In
addition, the fur is also responsible for the camouflage of
the animal, which changes color throughout the year,
changing from white in winter to brown in summer, ensuring
that the fox remains unnoticed in the eyes of its prey and
predators.1 This is just one of many examples that
demonstrate how important colors are to living beings and
it is not surprising to imagine that this is one of the most
explored topics within biology. However, there are still
many gaps in the knowledge about the relationship of
colors with some groups of organisms, such as bacteria.
Despite being responsible for crucial functions for the
balance of the planet, such as producing oxygen and
decomposing organic matter, bacteria still remain
surrounded by curiosities and questions with uncertain
answers. Much of this fog of knowledge may be, in my view,
purely due to our inability to observe these organisms with
the naked eye, which makes them, in a way, (in)visible** to
us—as you might imagine, creating visual inferences about
a bird or plant requires less effort than making similar
conclusions about a bacterium. Thus, it is not surprising that
the lack of information about colors—which are entirely
**Throughout the thesis, I will use parentheses in the word invisible and its derivatives when they refer to bacteria. In my perception, the
invisible is relative and is related to the vision spectrum of each species. Thus, what we humans consider invisible, may not be for other
correlated to vision—in (in)visible organisms is so evident. I
can list a series of examples that reinforce my argument,
from a simple comparison between the amount of studies
involving colors and bacteria vs other groups of organisms,
to deeper reflections, such as the absence of bacteria in
color guides used by naturalists, who only highlight animals,
plants, and minerals.
Despite the uncertainty about the role of colors in
bacteria, in recent years there has been a growing interest in
this topic, not only in biology, but in several areas of
knowledge, including in the arts. Especially for artists who
explore the intersection of life and art in their practices, as in
bioart***, bacteria can represent an interesting connection
point, since they add to the works, in addition to the
biological layer, colors, shapes, and patterns. In this way,
Invisibilia**** is the result of my explorations as an artist and
biologist on bacteria and their colors, in which, based on the
arguments made in this introduction, I cover three topics to
understand more about the fascinating and colorful micro-
universe of bacteria; they are: i) living beings and colors; ii)
the organization of colors and natural history; and iii)
bacteria, colors, and art.
***Bioart is a creative practice that adapts scientific methods and is inspired by the philosophical, social and environmental implications of
recombinant genetics, molecular biology and biotechnology.2
****Word from Latin, which means invisible.
In the last part of this thesis I present a compact color
guide, elaborated from the species of bacteria found by me
during this naturalistic-artistic journey. My intention with this
guide goes far beyond just providing a reference for those
who want to work with a specific species and / or color of
bacteria. In the context of my work, this guide is also a
promoter of encounters between the human species and
bacteria. For me, from the moment that we are able to
visualize them through colors, we can create communication
bridges between the micro and macro world.
Especially in the field of bioart, these communication
bridges between bacteria, colors, and human beings have
been built over the last few decades, and they explore the
most different directions (see the chapter Bacteria, Colors,
and Art). As an artist, my explorations within this theme have
enabled me to discuss subjects such as: the deconstruction
of intra- and interspecific barriers and anthropocentrism
through the visualization of the human skin microbiota (see
Self-utopia in the Appendix); raising awareness of the
perception of the ‘invisible’ that surrounds us, allowing us to
understand our physical space and our interference in the
environment (see Proximal Spaces in the Appendix); and
how the barriers created between the external and internal
worlds, between the body and the environment, between
the micro and the macro, can affect the dynamics of space,
be it physical or psychological—even in specific situations,
such as the pandemic of COVID-19 (see June in the
Finally, and not least, it is worth emphasizing here
that the intentions to organize colors can vary in each area
of knowledge, at each moment of time, and among those
who do, whether they are scientists or artists (see the
chapter The Organization of Colors and Natural History).
Colors tell stories, organize information, and highlight ideas
(ill. p. 16). Thus, it is no wonder that throughout history we
have been trying to understand and unveil them—from the
first philosophical discussions of Aristotle, Ptolemy, and
Galen about color as a physical property of the object, to
the scientific experiments of Isaac Newton using the prism
and concretizing the hypothesis of the influence of sunlight
on the ‘formation’ of colors.
But color is a complex phenomenon and our
understanding as humans about what ‘it is’ may be beyond
our reach. It, in all its complexity, plays with our perception:
a color can be the same without appearing like it is, or it can
be different and appear like the same—as evidenced by
Josef Albers in his classic work Interaction of Color (ill. p.
17). In the end, color, this neurological phenomenon that
starts as a signal on the optic nerve, can turn into a range of
emotional, social, and cultural experiences, and can
communicate messages that we didn't even think existed,
like those, until then, (in)visible on the microscopic scale of
the universe.
Colors influence moments in
history and can become period
symbols, as exemplified by
Leatrice Eiseman and Keith
Recker, in the book Pantone: The
Twentieth Century in Color.
One of Josef Albers' numerous
experiments, showing that the
same color may appear
different, depending on the
colors that interact with it.
Living Beings and Colors
olors play a fundamental role in any form of life. While this
statement may seem hyperbolic, if we think, in an elemental
way, that life on Earth is only possible by the presence of
oxygen, the opening sentence may begin to make more
sense. Plants, algae and some types of bacteria produce
oxygen through photosynthesis, in which a greenish
pigment, called chlorophyll, captures sunlight and converts
it into chemical energy, transforming carbon dioxide into
oxygen. Thereby, we can say that we have the whole base
of life balanced by color. Of course, putting color as a
protagonist in the generation of a process as complex as life
seems exaggerated, but at the same time pertinent.
Nevertheless, as a biologist, I know that a set of variables
was also important to get us here.
In nature, color plays different roles in different
species and, in general, it is responsible for mechanisms
that guide evolutionary processes. Thus, the function of
color is an adaptation to the biological needs of each
organism, which can be associated with camouflage,
aposematism, and communication.
Camouflage is perhaps one of the adaptation
strategies involving coloring that is best known in nature.
Although it seems simple, camouflage is associated with a
complicated mechanism, which depends, among other
variables, on the luminosity and on a complex neural
system. In it, prey and predators change the colors of their
bodies to become undetectable or unrecognizable in the
landscape. Cephalopods, which include octopus and squid,
are classic examples of animals that camouflage themselves.
Through an alert situation, they completely change the
colors of their bodies through neural stimuli, controlling the
amount of pigments available in the skin cells and becoming
similar to the substrate in which they are found.3
Becoming undetectable in the environment seems, at
least to many of us humans, the perfect strategy to survive
in nature. However, for some species, it is exactly the
opposite strategy that allows them to remain alive.
Aposematism is an example of this type of adaptation and
can be found in several groups of animals and plants. The
The Strawberry Poison-dart
Frog (Oophaga pumilio) is
one of the smallest species in
the family Dendrobatidae,
measuring about 24 mm, and
can be found in the tropical
forests of Central America.
The bright colors of its skin,
predominantly red, alert
predators to the presence of
species considered aposematic have, in general, a highly
visible color, which signals to a possible predator its harmful
potential. The small frogs of the family Dendrobatidae (ill. p.
19), found in the tropical forests of Central and South
America, are examples of aposematic animals. Despite their
small size—the largest species of Dendrobatidae measures
approximately six centimeters—these tiny amphibians carry
in their colorful skins a deadly toxin, capable of killing an
adult human in a few hours.5
In addition to camouflage and aposematism, coloring
can still play an important role in communication between
individuals, as in some groups of birds, where color is
directly involved in reproductive and territorial behaviors.
The House Finch (Haemorhous mexicanus) is the most
abundant cardinal species in North America, and one of its
main characteristics is the distinction of the color of the
feathers between males and females. While males have
plumage that varies between red and yellow, females have
the most discreet color, with brownish tones. In this species,
it is proven that the distinction of color between the sexes
plays an important informative role on the reproductive
partner, since for birds the color may be associated with the
individual’s good physical condition.6
The House Finch is one of many
examples of birds that have
dichromatism as a way of
selecting their sexual partners.
In general, in this color pattern,
males are more colorful than
females. However, the reverse
is also observed in several
species in nature.7
Plants, like any other living thing, can also
communicate. One of the strategies found by them is
through the use of color, especially for species that have
flowers and depend on pollinators, such as bees, birds and
bats. It is known that certain groups of pollinating insects
are only attracted by flowers with specific colors within their
respective spectra of vision. For example, bees pollinate
only blue or violet flowers, while beetles visit only white or
cream flowers.8
So far, we have seen that colors are fundamental
characteristics in the life of different animals and plants.
Nevertheless, as I wrote at the beginning of this chapter,
colors are important for any form of life. But, apart from
animals and plants, what else could be alive and colorful?
Well, I think the time has finally come to reveal my
motivation for writing Invisibilia. It is unclear how many
species there are on Earth, and estimates made by scientists
today range from approximately two million to a trillion
species. Despite this uncertainty, it is known that at least a
large part of life on our planet—approximately 70 to 90% of
species—can be composed of organisms considered
(in)visible to the human naked eye, such as bacteria.9
Bacteria are the smallest organisms found on Earth
and are identified, under an evolutionary perspective, as
one of the first forms of life to appear on the planet. They
are present almost everywhere, from human skin to the
deep ocean, and have an extensive list of responsibilities
that are essential for the maintenance of life. Among these
responsibilities are the decomposition of organic matter, the
fixation of nitrogen in the soil, the synthesis of vitamin B12
and the aid in the fight against harmful microorganisms.
Despite their microscopic sizes, bacteria have shapes,
smells and colors. The coloring found in bacteria is the
result of the production of several pigments such as
carotenoid and melanin, which allow them to express a
comprehensive palette of colors, such as orange, violet,
blue, red, and yellow. Among some of the species known to
produce colors are the blue-violet Streptomyces
vietnamensis*, found in the soil of the forests of Vietnam,10
the brown Kineococcus xinjiangensis, found in the sands of
the desert of China,11 and the orange Paracoccus
haeundaensis, found in the salt waters of South Korean
Colors play important roles in the survival of animals
and plants, and with bacteria it could not be different.
*Bacteria do not have common names.
Several studies show that the production of colors in these
microscopic organisms is mainly related to photosynthesis,13
antibiotic response,14 and protection against ultraviolet rays
and freezing.15 For example, the bacterium
Janthinobacterium lividum produces, through the pigment
violacein, the color violet, which has antibacterial, fungal,
and viral properties. This ‘ability’ provided by the bacteria
through coloring, made it essential for the survival of the
Red-backed Salamander (Plethodon cinereus), which when
carrying the bacteria on its skin, becomes protected against
the harmful effects of fungi such as Chytrid
(Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis and B. salamandrivorans).16
The Organization of Colors
and Natural History
he way we interpret the different colors is associated with
our individual experiences, being influenced by the cultural
and personal experiences that we build during life.
Therefore, it is not surprising to imagine that throughout
human history, we have tried to understand the meaning of
colors and organize them in a way that makes us some
visual sense. Clearly, the perception and interpretation of
colors can encompass several strands, ranging from
analyses considered speculative, such as the theosophical*
book Thought-Forms, published in 1901 by Annie Besant
and Charles Webster Leadbeater, in which they associate
colors with thought and the human aura, to scientific articles
with experimental evidence, such as the hundreds of works
published in the journal Color Research and Application.
Frontispiece of the book
Thought-Forms, in which Annie
Besant and Charles Leadbeater
infer, based on theosophy, that
human thoughts are related to
specific colors and shapes.
*Word derived from theosophy, in which it composes a set of doctrines based on the principle that the knowledge of god can be achieved
through spiritual ecstasy, direct intuition or special individual relations with the occult.
The first color organization systems, known as color
charts, date from the mid-17th century and were used
primarily as guides to identify animals, plants and minerals,
as well as to create consistency in the production of paints
and dyes.17 Among some of the oldest examples, we find
the Tabula Colorum Physiologica (ill. p. 28), sketched in
1686 by Richard Waller, and the Traité des Couleurs Servant
à la Peinture à l’Eau (ill. p. 29), created by A. Boogert, in
In the eighteenth century, the European industry of
dyes, pigments, and glazes was at its peak, becoming a
promising and profitable market and causing the search for
new colors and the improvement of what was already known
to increase exponentially. At that time, everyone
commented on the importance and influence of colors,
making this a topic present in various areas of knowledge,
from philosophy to the arts.17
The growing demand for more reliable color
classification systems has given rise to several experiments
based on scientific explanations. One of the first and most
reliable of these classification systems is the Munsell Color
System, developed in the mid-1890s by the American
painter and art educator Albert Henry Munsell, and
published in 1913 as the Atlas of the Munsell Color System
(ill. p. 27). Tired of the classifications he considered
‘misleading’, Munsell created a three-dimensional system
based on three properties of color—hue, value, and
chroma—which for the first time were treated in uniform and
independent dimensions of perception. In Munsell’s color
theory, each color is composed of the three attributes of
hue (color itself), value (lightness/darkness), and chroma
(color saturation or brightness). This color system is
configured as a numerical scale with visually uniform steps
for each of the three color attributes, with each color having
a logical and visual relationship with all other colors.
Munsell’s system was so revolutionary and scientifically
considered rigorous, that it is still used today in several
areas, such as geology and forensic pathology.
The explosion of interest in colors was also visible in
the natural sciences, especially during the eighteenth and
nineteenth centuries. During this period, naturalists were
exploring the world, discovering and cataloging new
species, and using color guides to more accurately identify
Munsell Color System is a
three-dimensional color
classification system based on
three attributes of color: hue
(color itself), value
(lightness/darkness), and
chroma (color saturation or
and group animals and plants. Charles Darwin himself,
considered one of the greatest naturalists of all time, used
color guides to classify species during his explorations on
board the HMS Beagle**. According to historians, Darwin
always carried the Werner’s Nomenclature of Colours
(ill. p. 30), designed by mineralogist Abraham Gottlob
Werner—and later reviewed by Scottish painter Patrick
Syme—that helped him record and describe the colors he
Tabula Colorum Physiologica is
one of the first systems of color
organization known to date.
Sketched in 1686 by the
English naturalist Richard
Waller, this system was widely
used to compare and classify
the colors of animals, plants,
and minerals. The colors used
by Waller were extracted
directly from pigments and
applied to the paper, in an
attempt to preserve each color
in its purest form.19
**The HMS Beagle was the sailing ship on which Charles Darwin, in December 1831, began his journey towards South America. The nearly
five years of expedition yielded numerous o bservations and discoveries, published by Darwi n as part of The Voyage of the Beagle between
1838 and 1843.
Darwin’s countless expeditions resulted in a large
amount of theoretical material, full of information about the
species and landscapes that crossed his path. However,
Darwin did not spend much of his time illustrating or
painting his observations. In this way, field books were one
of the few sources of information so that artists could
replicate the shapes and colors of animals and plants
described by Darwin. Among these artists, there was the
British ornithologist and illustrator John Gould, known for
In 1692, the artist A. Boogert
created the audacious Traité
des Couleurs Servant à la
Peinture à lEau, which over
almost 800 pages, explains
how colors are applied and
how watercolor mixes work to
create different tones.
First published in 1814, the
Werner’s Nomenclature of
Colours aimed to eliminate
ambiguity in color classification
by creating a standardized
system. Because it is
considered a classification
system developed with
scientific rigor, Charles Darwin
used it as a guide during his
naturalistic expeditions.
the detailed bird plates drawn after the second HMS Beagle
expedition to the Galapagos Islands.
In addition to Darwin, many other naturalists have
become known for their records of nature. Nevertheless,
some of them also stood out for the detailed illustrations
resulting from their observations. You may have heard
someone say that small details make a big difference. For
me, this phrase translates perfectly into works like those by
Ernst Haeckel and Robert Ridgway.
Besides being a zoologist, philosopher, and professor
of anatomy, Ernst Haeckel was also considered a talented
German artist. His complex illustrations faithfully portrayed
the shapes and colors of hundreds of organisms, from
microscopic diatoms to bats. Between 1899 and 1904,
Haeckel published about 100 of these illustrations in the
form of leaflets known as the Kunstformen der Natur (ill. p.
32), becoming a reference not only for science, but also for
art, and especially for Art Nouveau, influencing artists like
Karl Blossfeldt and Émile Gallé.20
Robert Ridgway was another important name in
natural history, famous for his extensive knowledge of birds,
which in 1880 gave him the position of first curator of the
bird sector at the United States National Museum. As a
Tanagra darwini (currently
known as Thraupis bonariensis
darwinii) illustrated by John
Gould and included in The
Zoology of the Voyage of HMS
Beagle, Under the Command of
Captain Fitzroy, R. N., During
the Years 1832 to 1836, v. III,
edited by Charles Darwin in
taxonomist and technical illustrator, Ridgway spent much of
his hours observing, comparing and drawing the birds in his
collection. Owner of a super detailed look, he found it
difficult to classify the colors of the species according to the
color guides existing in his time, which led him to create his
own guide. In 1886, Ridgway published A Nomenclature of
Colors for Naturalists, with an expanded version in 1912,
Color Standards and Color Nomenclature, which contains
1115 types of colors, designed especially for the
identification of colors in birds (ill. p. 33).
The relationship between colors and natural history,
animals, plants and minerals have always been the focus of
naturalists’ observations. In the guides designed by Werner
Throughout his life, Ernst
Haeckel has produced 42 works,
which include hundreds of
detailed and colorful illustrations
of his field observations. About
100 of these illustrations were
published between 1899 and
1904 in the Kunstformen der
Natur, such as Orchideae (left),
Ascidiacea (center), and
Trochilidae (right).
and Ridgway, for example, the colors depict only the
organisms visible to the human naked eye, completely
omitting bacteria and other microscopic organisms, creating
a historical gap in knowledge.
In Color Standards and Color
Nomenclature, it is possible to
find 1115 colors. The large pallet
is the work of the American
ornithologist Robert Ridgway,
who felling limited by the color
guides of his time, decided to
create his own classification
system to identify the birds in his
collection. Ridgway’s detailed
look made him even create
species-specific colors, such as
Warbler Green, found in the
Philippine Leaf Warbler
(Phylloscopus olivaceus).
Bacteria, Colors, and Art
hen Antonie van Leeuwenhoek, in the mid-1670s, first
observed bacteria using a microscope, he might not have
imagined how many possibilities he was opening up
through this (in)visible world. Bacteria, as we have seen
before, are responsible for processes that keep us alive and
are present in the most diverse environments. Thus, it is not
surprising that our curiosity to understand these organisms
leads us to explore them in the most different directions,
from pure science to the contemporary art.
In art, from what is known through historical records,
bacteria first appeared as a medium through the work of
Alexander Fleming. In addition to being a biologist, doctor,
microbiologist, and pharmacologist, Fleming was also
known as a painter and even became a member of the
Chelsea Arts Club, a private club for artists in England. Part
of his works were painted on petri dishes, using different
species of bacteria that expressed different colors.
According to the history, Fleming was especially careful
when choosing the bacteria that made up his paintings,
because in order to work with the desired colors, he needed
to understand every detail of the biology of the species that
would be in his works, such as the incubation time, the
growth temperature, and the interspecific relationships of
organisms. In this way, Fleming had control over each color,
which allowed him to sketch the most different images. It is
said that through these paintings and experiments, Fleming
discovered penicillin, which awarded him the Nobel Prize in
Medicine in 1945.21
Since Alexander Fleming, the use of bacteria as art
media has been increasing more and more, encompassing
diverse approaches and scales, from DNA to entire
ecosystems, prompting a range of discussions from the
ephemerality of life to criticisms around Creationism. In
recent years, many artists, especially in the field of bioart,
have dedicated or have dedicated some of their work to
topics involving bacteria and colors. In the following pages,
I will present in chronological order some of these important
works, which show how fascinating and questioning the
(in)visible world of bacteria can be.
Alexander Fleming was a pioneer
in using bacteria as ‘inks’ to make
paintings on petri dishes.
According to the history, Fleming
carefully studied each species
that comprised his works, with the
intention of understanding the
biology of each bacterium. In this
way, he had control, for example,
over the incubation time and over
interactions between species,
enabling him to create the most
diverse images.
Eduardo Kac
Genesis (1999)
Genesis is perhaps one of Eduardo Kac’s most iconic works,
in which he questions the creationist view of the supremacy
of a god who has control over all of nature. Kac used a part
of the biblical text of Genesis 1:26, where god grants
human beings control over all the creatures on Earth, and
translated it into Morse code, transforming each letter into
points, dashes, and spaces. He then translated the Morse
code into a ‘genetic text’ replacing each element with one
of the initial four letters of the nitrogenous bases that make
up the DNA (
uanine, and
With this unique DNA sequence generated from the
translation of the biblical passage, Kac created his own
synthetic gene, which was inserted into bacteria. In addition
to having the new genetic code, these bacteria were also
genetically modified to express the fluorescent green color*
when exposed to ultraviolet light. After being grown in a
petri dish, the live bacteria created by Kac were exhibit in
the art gallery, in which the public, present or remote**, was
invited to turn on a source of ultraviolet light that
illuminated the petri dish. When projecting ultraviolet light
Petri dish grown with bacteria
genetically modified to express
fluorescent green color under
ultraviolet light. Courtesy of the
*The green fluorescent color results from the presence of green fluorescent protein (GFP).
**In Genesis it was possible to connect remotely via internet, where participants could turn on the ultraviolet light in the gallery.
onto bacterial cells, in addition to making them fluorescent,
it also caused mutations in their DNA, altering the sequence
originally created by Kac and, consequently, the word of
god. For him, these mutations caused by the control of the
human being are a way of proving that this same human
being can have dominion over creatures—as written in the
passage in Genesis—however, this dominion is only given
to man from of your knowledge about science.
Genesis on display, showing the
genetic text (left) and the
biblical text (right) used by Kac
to create his own synthetic
gene, introduced in the DNA of
bacteria (center). Courtesy of
the artist.
Peta Clancy
Visible Human Bodies (2005)
In Visible Human Bodies, Peta Clancy cultivated in petri
dishes different species of bacteria found in the human skin
microbiota. During cultivation, Clancy purposely painted
shapes of the human body, such as legs and trunks, on each
of the plates using different bacteria and their respective
colors as paints. After the growth of the colonies of bacteria,
it was possible to clearly visualize the images sketched by
Clancy, evidenced also by the different colors expressed by
the different species. For the artist, making skin bacteria
visible to the naked eye is an important step for us humans
to understand how interconnected we are with the outside.
Shape of a body painted on a
petri dish using bacteria found
on human skin. Courtesy of the
Serie of paintings by Clancy on
display. Courtesy of the artist.
Thus, when we become aware of the existence of this
(in)visible layer that inhabits porous skin, we are able to
understand how our individuality is non-existent between
the physical and biological, and internal and external
6 Days Goodbye Poems of Ophelia (2006)
In 6 Days Goodbye Poems of Ophelia, JoWonder recreated
the painting Ophelia, by John Everett Millais, using various
bacterial species as paints, such as Pseudomonas
aeruginosa and Bacillus mycoides. Over the course of six
days, the artist recorded the changes in the colors and
shapes of her painting, resulting from the physiological
responses of bacteria in contact with the air, humidity and
temperature of the environment (ill. p. 40). In addition to the
aesthetic result obtained through the living painting that
transforms, this work also reflects on the process of death in
its most poetic form. In JoWonder’s perspective, the same
bacteria responsible for the decomposition of Ophelia’s
body, now bring it back to life. However, as the days go by,
these same bacteria die and join the pale human body, in
the inevitable cycle of life under which all species are
subject to pass.
In 6 Days Goodbye Poems of
Ophelia, JoWonder recreated the
painting Ophelia, by John Millais,
using the colors produced by
different species of bacteria.
Courtesy of the artist.
Marta de Menezes
Decon: Deconstruction, Decontamination, Decomposition (2007)
As in JoWonder’s work, Marta de Menezes recreated in her
piece Decon: Deconstruction, Decontamination,
Decomposition the famous geometric paintings of the
Dutchman Piet Mondrian, using the bacterium
Pseudomonas putida as part of her process. The frames,
made of acrylic, were divided into rectangles and squares,
which were filled with colored culture media—the same
colors used by Mondrian—for the growth of the bacterium.
After the cultivation of P. putida, the paintings were
installed in the gallery and, throughout the time of the
exhibition, they lost the vividness of their colors, as a result
of the decomposition triggered by the bacteria in each
culture medium (ill. p. 42). Although the color of the
bacteria is not the central point of this piece, the change in
the colors of the culture media only occurred in direct
response to the addition of the pigments produced by P.
putida, which, in general, presents colors with whitish-cream
tones. For de Menezes, the core of the work lies in the
dynamism observed between the life and death of the
artwork, which only exists when it is degraded, revealing the
ephemerality that accompanies everything and everyone,
living beings or simple objects.
In Decon, de Menezes recreated
Piet Mondrian’s paintings using
different colors of agar. The
colors have faded over time due
to interaction with Pseudomonas
putida. Courtesy of the artist.
Erno-Erik Raitanen
Bacteriograms (2008–2010)
In the series of photograms*** Bacteriograms, Erno-Erik
Raitanen grew bacteria from his own body on the surface of
gelatin from photo negatives, in a process similar to that
performed in the laboratory with agar on petri dishes. The
growth of bacteria on the surface of the negatives was
revealed in colorful images with abstract shapes (ill. p. 44).
Although the colors in the photograms are not the actual
colors produced by the bacteria—since the images are only
the result of the negative shadow of objects exposed to
light—they still reflect the diversity of colors found in the
species cultivated by Raitanen. Although almost absent from
the process, the artist considers that the images revealed in
the negatives are self-portraits, since they are created by his
own bacteria. For him, abstract images are a way of
disturbing the viewer’s subconscious, which retains its own
representation of the image based on its perception and
individual psyche.
***A photogram is a photographic image made without a camera by placing objects directly onto the surface of a light-sensitive material
such as photographic paper and then exposing it to light.22
Sonja Bäumel
Cartography of the Human Body (2010–2011)
In Cartography of the Human Body, Sonja Bäumel in
collaboration with Erich Schopf made visible, through the
colors of bacteria, the microbiological infrastructure that
surrounds the human body (ill. p. 45). For this, Bäumel
collected bacteria from all parts of her body that were in
contact with the external environment during a certain date
(November 11, 2010), and in a specific place on the planet
(Vienna, Austria). Over an eight-month period, Bäumel and
Schopf identified and analyzed all bacterial species found in
the collection, organizing them according to the
interspecific interactions observed between them. In order
Three self-portraits in
photograms, made from
Raitanen’s bacteria.
to create a chronological map of the species for each part of
the body, the artists cultivated each sample in petri dishes,
and waited for the colonies of bacteria to grow and become
visible. Every time a new species was observed, the artists
isolated it and interrupted its growth, so that they could
have a temporal and visual record of it. In this way, Bäumel
and Schopf built a cartogram with the chronological layers
for each region of the human body, which show the bacteria
and the colors they synthesize. According to Bäumel, each
layer of the cartogram is associated with a personal moment
in time, which carries the experiences and thoughts of the
artists, now immortalized in the artwork.
Microbiological infrastructure
of the human body. Courtesy
of the artist.
Petri dishes grown with
bacteria collected on
Bäumel’s arm and hand. In
the series of three images on
the left, it is possible to verify
the growth of bacterial
colonies over time by
changing the color. Courtesy
of the artist.
Tal Danino
Microuniverse (2015)
Microuniverse is one of several works made by Tal Danino
that involve bacteria and colors. Specifically in this project,
Danino presents a series of photographs with intriguing and
colorful shapes, resulting from the growth patterns of
bacteria such as Escherichia coli and Paenibacillus
dendritiformis cultivated by him in petri dishes.
Danino’s photographs showing
the fractal growth pattern of
some species of bacteria.
Courtesy of the artist.
Apparently, the set of photographs seems to show only a
chaotic cluster of images. However, looking closely, you can
see that there is a fractal growth pattern that is repeated in
most photographs (ill. p. 46)—the fractal pattern is
constantly observed in nature, from neurons to rivers.23 For
Danino, showing that these patterns are also present in the
micro-scale of bacteria can reveal how the universe as a
whole, apparently chaotic, is organized and connected,
from the smallest to the largest structure.
Simon Park
The Origin of Species (2016)
Simon Park is known for his extensive research on bacteria
and colors, which even includes a vast library of colorful
microorganisms, called C-MOLD, that can be used as a
resource for the arts. The more than three decades of
working with microbiology have made it possible for Park to
venture into his project The Origin of Species, in which he
created the first book made entirely by, and of, bacteria.
The book is inspired by the classic work published by
Charles Darwin in 1859, On the Origin of Species, in which
the naturalist discusses the theory of the evolution of living
beings. To create the pages of his version of the book, Park
cultivated on agar a species of bacteria capable of
producing cellulose, Gluconacetobacter xylinus, which when
growing in the culture medium can accumulate a layer of
cellulose approximately two centimeters thick. When this
layer is dehydrated, it forms a thin pellicle with a texture
similar to the human skin, which was used by Park as a
substitute for classic sheets of paper. For the cover, he used
one of the cellulose pellicles that was painted with the title
of the piece, The Origin of Species, using pigmented
bacteria, such as the purple Chromobacterium violaceum,
the pink Kocuria rosea, and the blue Vogesella indigofera.
For him, who does not consider himself an artist but rather a
liberal scientist, this book is an intriguing experiment, which
explores how bacteria, considered primitive organisms by
the theory of evolution, can bring new perspectives to the
knowledge of human beings today.
Cover of the book The Origin of
Species, made entirely of
bacteria. Courtesy of the artist.
Tarah Rhoda
Agar Remix (2016)
Based on the idea that agar in petri dishes can be used as a
canvas to create microbiological paintings, Tarah Rhoda
challenges the power of scale in Agar Remix. Inside a glass
dome, Rhoda gathered several silicone objects, which vary
in shapes and sizes. Apparently, the set of objects seems to
form only a cluster of leaves, shells and letters. However,
when projecting ultraviolet light on them, they gain greenish
fluorescent colors, completely changing the perception of
the piece. The fluorescence in this work is the result of the
presence of the bacterium Escherichia coli, which when
genetically modified (E. coli K12) can express, through the
green fluorescent protein (GFP), this type of coloration—as
seen in Genesis, by Eduardo Kac. Each of the objects was
coated with agar and activated charcoal—which allows a
greater contrast of the pigments—and while the E. coli K12
colonies grew, Rhoda manipulated them with brushes and
other objects in order to create intensities of shadows and
details. The end result of Rhoda’s work opens up new
perspectives for the use of bacteria in art beyond the two-
dimensional space.
Silicone objects coated with agar
and activated charcoal, which
increase the contrast of the
fluorescent green color
synthetized by Escherichia coli
K12. Courtesy of the artist.
Hunter Cole
Bioluminescent Nudes (2017)
In Bioluminescent Nudes, Hunter Cole photographed nude
female models, who wore only accessories, such as
necklaces and crowns, made with petri dishes. On each of
the plates, Cole painted the shape of a white lily with the
bacterium Photobacterium phosphoreum, which symbolizes,
for some cultures, chastity, virtue, and innocence restored
after death. The photographs were taken in a dark
environment, so that the lilies could be evidenced through
the bluish-green bioluminescence**** produced by P.
phosphoreum—the bioluminescence in this species of
bacteria is generated by the presence of the luciferase
enzyme and the luciferin pigment, which transform the
chemical energy of cells into light energy (ill. p. 51). The
poses of the models refer to courtship rituals, where they
seem to display their colors in movements captured by
long-exposure photographs. For Colen, the intersection
between art and science makes it possible to faithfully
connect the discussions seen in parallel between disciplines.
In this case, addressing the breaking of innocence in the
female being, especially in a male chauvinistic society,
****Bioluminescence consists of the production and emission of light by a living organism, through a chemical reaction between an enzyme
and a molecule (luciferase and luciferin, consequently).
through the procession carried out with bioluminescence,
which it is commonly observed in nature.
Two of the dozens of photographs
taken by Cole, in which female
models perform ritualistic dances
with adornments made from petri
dishes grown with Photobacterium
phosphoreum. This species of
bacteria is capable of generating
bioluminescence. Courtesy of the
Nicole Clouston
Lake Ontario Portrait (2017)
In Lake Ontario Portrait, Nicole Clouston created a series of
15 rectangular prisms made of clear acrylic, which were
filled with water and mud from different parts of Lake
Ontario. Clouston vertically subdivided each of the prisms,
forming layers of sediment and water that were exposed to
different conditions of pH, light, and oxygen availability.
Over time, the bacteria present in the mud and water in
each of the subdivisions grew, until they became visible in
the form of colorful colonies. Each prism revealed a unique
pattern of colors—reminiscent of metamorphic rocks—
resulting from the different species of bacteria collected at
each point in the lake (ill. p. 53). For the artist, evidencing
bacteria in an aesthetic way through art, is a means of
increasing empathy between us humans and the ecosystem
that surrounds us.
Close view of one of Cloustons
portraits of Lake Ontario.
Courtesy of the artist.
The 15 portraits from different
parts of Lake Ontario, made from
mud and water. Over time, the
bacteria present in each of the
prisms showed their colors,
transforming the organic matter
into colorful images of the
landscape. Courtesy of the artist.
Adam Brown
[ir]reverent: Miracles on Demand (2019)
Adam Brown explores in this work how the great
monotheistic religions, such as Catholicism, throughout
history created the anthropocentric view of the world, in
which man, made in the image and likeness of god, has
dominion over all species. According to the story, people
believed—and still believe—that the appearance of reddish
stains on objects considered sacred, such as wooden saints
and hosts, was a divine sign in which the blood of Christ
materialized. Nevertheless, science has proven that the
spots of ‘blood miracles’, as they became known, are the
result of the presence of the bacterium Serratia marcescens,
which synthesizes the red pigment prodigiosin. For
centuries, these miracles were used as divine armor to justify
human actions, such as corrupt conquests and anti-Semitic
persecutions. In [ir]reverent: Miracles on Demand, Brown
recreated the blood miracle, cultivating S. marcescens on
the host, and growing it in an incubator that is in the shape
of an monstrance (ill. p. 55). Under ideal conditions, Brown
managed to recreate the miracle in approximately two days,
showing his mastery over it and, consequently,
over the experiment. Brown’s criticism in this work reveals to
us how the lack of knowledge about science can lead the
human species to ignorance and arrogance.
The ‘blood miracle’ replicated by
Brown, in which the artist
cultivated on the host a bacterium
capable of producing the red
color, Serratia marcescens.
Courtesy of the artist.
(In)visible Bacteria
o be able to write Invisibilia, I had to go through my own
naturalistic-artistic journey. For approximately two years, I
immersed myself intensely in the theme of bacteria and their
colors, examining each of the subjects covered in the
previous chapters of this thesis. However, this work would
only make sense to me, if I could be able to explore beyond
the pages of books and scientific papers, also
understanding the organic materiality of bacteria—which
would make me understand, in fact, how important the
visuality of colors is in this group of organisms.
As we have seen so far, bacteria have always been
somewhat underestimated in terms of their colors and
shapes. Even after van Leeuwenhoek discovered the
existence of a micro-universe present in practically all
environments, knowledge about bacteria was scarce—and
still is, when compared to other biological groups—making
it impossible to record species historically, which may even
already have been extinguished. For this reason, I decided
to turn this journey of mine into an illustrated guide of the
species I found, materialized and eternalizing this
information in this thesis.
During this discovery process, I decided to explore
three aspects—which became photographic series—that
would allow me to investigate, in addition to scientific
discussion, the poetics of these encounters between the
micro and macro world. The first is called (in)visible (ill. p.
60), in which I collected samples of ‘non-visible or colorless
matter’, such as water and air. At this stage, my intention
was to question about our inability to see the fundamental
elements for our existence, making them visible through the
bacteria present in these materials. In the second series,
(de)composition (ill. pp. 61 and 62), I collected dead
elements of flora and fauna in Buffalo, and placed them in
petri dishes. After a few weeks, these elements started the
process of decomposition, in which bacteria and fungi
began to become visible in the rotting bodies. For me,
visualizing how the death of a being allows other organisms
to come to life through colors is an important point of
discussion about how our species, like any other, is
susceptible to the natural cyclical system. By understanding
this fragility, we will be able to lose sight of
anthropocentrism. In the last series (extra)ordinary (ill. p. 63)
I bring non-organic objects to the petri dishes. These
objects are part of our daily lives, like coins and pills, which
over time ‘come to life and colors’ through the bacteria that
inhabit them. In this series, my idea is to show how our daily
life is full of beings that we are not aware of, and that when
we start to see them, we become aware of our own space,
be it physical and/or ecological.
Over the next few pages, you will be introduced to
15 species of bacteria found, for example, in human skin, in
soil, and in water. Some of them are easily manipulated in a
laboratory, growing rapidly—in approximately 24 hours—in
culture media* in petri dishes. Others need more time to
grow and become visible to the human eye, as they depend
on more complex natural processes, such as decomposition.
Finally, before you go on this journey, you need to
understand that this is not a purely biological guide. It was
carefully thought out, so that it contrasted scientific and
artistic information. In this way, the order of species is
presented according to an organization of colors—using the
*All bacteria presented in this guide were grown on LB agar. To stimulate the production of blue pigmentation in Bacillus sp. (ill. p. 71), X-
gal was added to the culture medium.
spectrum of light visible to humans—instead of a purely
phylogenetic organization**.
**Organization system based on the evolutionary relationship and characteristics of species.
(in)visible series
Two photographic series of
(in)visible, in which samples of
invisible or colorless matter to
human eyes were collected in
petri dishes. Above: sample of air
in three moments of time (1, 7,
and 15 days, consequently);
below: sample of the water in
three moments of time (1, 7, and
15 days).
(de)composition series: flora
Two photographic series of
(de)composition, in which samples
of the flora and fauna of Buffalo
were collected and placed in petri
dishes. Above: sample of a twig
(unidentified species) in three
moments of time (1, 7, and 15
days, consequently); below:
sample of a flower (unidentified
species) in three moments of time
(1, 7, and 15 days).
(de)composition series: fauna
Two photographic series of
(de)composition, in which samples
of the flora and fauna of Buffalo
were collected and placed in petri
dishes. Above: sample of a feather
(Blue Jay, Cyanocitta cristata) in
three moments of time (1, 7, and
15 days, consequently); below:
sample of a beetle (unidentified
species) in three moments of time
(1, 7, and 15 days).
(extra)ordinary series
Two photographic series of
(extra)ordinary, in which ordinary
objects were collected and placed
in petri dishes. Above: sample of a
pill in three moments of time (1, 7,
and 15 days, consequently);
below: sample of a coin in three
moments of time (1, 7, and 15
Micrococcus aloeverae
Microbacterium trichothecenolyticum
Staphylococcus warneri
Brevibacterium casei
Bacillus butanolivorans
Chromobacterium violaceum
Bacillus sp.
Pseudomonas aeruginosa
Glutamicibacter soli
Micrococcus yunnanensis
Deinococcus aquaticus
Paracoccus marcusii
Rhodococcus rhodochrous
Serratia marcescens
Bacillus subtilis
olors are fundamental to the existence of any form of life. Through them, we are able to
experience emotional, social, and cultural experiences. In nature, color plays, among other
roles, the communication function. Pollinators communicate with flowers, and predators with
their prey. Nevertheless, when this scale of communication crosses the perception of human
vision, how can we access and encode a message? Microscopic bacteria have found, through
colors, a way to materialize in the macro world, and these may do so in an attempt to convey
a message to us. In some cases, it is already proven by science that this interaction between
the colors of bacteria and other organisms prevents predations and diseases. However, what
is the message for us, human beings, that we boldly have even an geological age with our
name? In this thesis I have sought to understand how colors produced by bacteria may be
interpreted by us humans, asking—among other questions—what is the message they
communicate to us. Using visualization as a way of representing these microorganisms, I tried
to deconstruct the human archetypes attached to these species. For example, bacteria are
seen as agents of contamination but in truth, create a bridge of dialogue between the micro-
and the macro-universe. I believe that when we visualize and begin to interpret the messages
transmitted by other species even if they are invisible to us, we will be capable of perceiving
our role in the complex web of life. And, at least, postpone the ecocide ahead of us.24
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his appendix includes the description of three works developed during the process of
obtaining this Master of Fine Arts degree, and which were exhibited in Invisibilia, at El Museo
Francisco Oller y Diego Rivera, in Buffalo, USA, during April and May of 2021.
The skin is a layer that separates us from the outside world and gives us an individual body. It
inhabits millions of microorganisms, which protects us and keeps us alive. However, when our
skin touches other skin, we break the barrier of individuality and even unconsciously become
part of another. In that touch, microorganisms are shared. In Self-utopia, Felipe Shibuya
created three self-portraits using the bacteria of his own skin (I), the skin of a known (You), and
the combination of their two bacteria (Us). For him, creating these portraits is a way of
materializing these relationships, in which we can see ourselves as individuals but also see
ourselves as a being formed by our relationships. The reflection in the mirror is an invitation to
ask ourselves about our own individuality and how far “I can be you, and you can be me.”
I, amid more than seven billion human organisms, remain me
I carry unique characteristics that set me apart from you
but I carry in my DNA information about you
but I live and survive because I carry you
Maybe I’m not just me anymore
Maybe you’re not just you anymore
Maybe you and I are actually us
Self-utopia displayed at El Museo
Francisco Oller y Diego Rivera, in
Buffalo, USA.
The three portraits of Self-utopia
made from bacteria found on the
skin. In the top photograph, the
portrait made with Felipe
Shibuya's bacteria (I; Bacillus sp.);
in the center image the portrait
made with the bacteria of an
acquaintance of him (You;
Paenibacillus sp.); and in the last
photograph the combination of
the two species of bacteria (Us).
In June 2020, the streets were filled with protests. Commerce reopened its doors and a few
days later closed again. Each week a new record of deaths was reached. People protected
themselves as best they could, locking themselves at home, wearing gloves and masks, and
staying away from each other. Their masks became a symbol of protection, simultaneously
covering their faces and homogenizing them in (into) a cathartic landscape.
June is a daily visualization of one of the most chaotic months during the COVID-19
pandemic, in which Felipe Shibuya uses masks as the central object of his installation. On
each day of June 2020, Shibuya wore a mask in a different environment, such as at the
supermarket or in the park, and later in the laboratory where he ‘cultivated’ them. He grew
the bacteria present in each mask so they became visible, revealing their unique colors and
shapes. In doing so, he has created a temporal portrait of each place he passed through
during this overwhelming month.
June displayed at El Museo
Francisco Oller y Diego Rivera, in
Buffalo, USA. In the image above
the visualization of the whole June
2020, through the masks used by
Felipe Shibuya on each day of that
month. The colors in the cotton
masks are the result of the growth
of bacteria on the fabric. On the
left the detail of the mask worn on
June, 5, 2020.
Proximal Spaces
Proximal Spaces is a multi-modal installation that explores the environment at multiple scales
of concentric circles in proximity to the body. Inspired by Edward Hall’s 1961 notation of
intimate (0–1.5ft), personal (1.5–4ft), social (4–12ft), and public (12–25ft) spaces in his
“Proxemics” diagrams, the artworks are an interpretation of this current time–this time of the
COVID-19 pandemic.
In Fall 2020, at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, a team of international BioArtists
collaborated on a montage of microscopic images of their everyday environment. The
resulting images and discussions explored a heightened awareness of the microbiome on and
around us.
This video brings together all of the elements, as well as, the BioArtists’ discussions and
responses to the sampling and culturing of their microbiome and that which lives in their
Proximal Spaces. These works visualize the variegated response to the biological environment
in relation to the unprecedented levels of physical distancing and self-isolation. It considers
how recent developments of vaccine design impact our understanding of interpersonal and
interspecies messaging.
Artistic Directors: Joel Ong, Elaine Whittaker; Original Drawings: Elaine Whittaker; Graphic
Design Programming: Natalie Plociennik, Bhavesh Kakwani; AR/Web development: Sachin
Khargie, Ryan Martin; BioArtists: Roberta Buiani, Nathalie Dubois Calero, Sarah Choukah,
Nicole Clouston, Jess Holz, Mick Lorusso, Maro Pebo, and Felipe Shibuya; Video Editor: Nada
El-Omari; Sound designer: Michael Palumbo; Web designer: Lu Zhouyang
This project is funded through the Vice President Research Innovation’s “Research in the Time
of COVID-19” initiative at York University and supported by Sensorium: Centre for Digital Art
and Technology.
Photographs of the four petri dishes sampled in the physical space
occupied by Felipe Shibuya during the COVID-19 pandemic (in the
respective left to right order: Intimate 01.5 feet, Personal 1.54 feet,
Social 412 feet, and Public 1225 feet), which are part of Proximal
Spaces, displayed at El Museo Francisco Oller y Diego Rivera, in Buffalo,
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Full-text available
Classical sexual selection theory provides a well-supported conceptual framework for understanding the evolution and signalling function of male ornaments. It predicts that males obtain greater fitness benefits than females through multiple mating because sperm are cheaper to produce than eggs. Sexual selection should therefore lead to the evolution of male-biased secondary sexual characters. However, females of many species are also highly ornamented. The view that this is due to a correlated genetic response to selection on males was widely accepted as an explanation for female ornamentation for over 100 years and current theoretical and empirical evidence suggests that genetic constraints can limit sex-specific trait evolution. Alternatively, female ornamentation can be the outcome of direct selection for signalling needs. Since few studies have explored interspecific patterns of both male and female elaboration, our understanding of the evolution of animal ornamentation remains incomplete, especially over broad taxonomic scales. Here we use a new method to quantify plumage colour of all ~6,000 species of passerine birds to determine the main evolutionary drivers of ornamental colouration in both sexes. We found that conspecific male and female colour elaboration are strongly correlated, suggesting that evolutionary changes in one sex are constrained by changes in the other sex. Both sexes are more ornamented in larger species and in species living in tropical environments. Ornamentation in females (but not males) is increased in cooperative breeders-species in which female-female competition for reproductive opportunities and other resources related to breeding may be high. Finally, strong sexual selection on males has antagonistic effects, causing an increase in male colouration but a considerably more pronounced reduction in female ornamentation. Our results indicate that although there may be genetic constraints to sexually independent colour evolution, both female and male ornamentation are strongly and often differentially related to morphological, social and life-history variables.
The number of species on Earth is one of the most fundamental numbers in science, but one that remains highly uncertain. Clearly, more species exist than the present number of formally described species (approximately 1.5 million), but projected species numbers differ dramatically among studies. Recent estimates range from about 2 million species to approximately 1 trillion, but most project around 11 million species or fewer. Numerous studies have focused on insects as a major component of overall richness, and many have excluded other groups, especially non-eukaryotes. Here, we re-estimate global biodiversity. We also estimate the relative richness of the major clades of living organisms, summarized as a " Pie of Life. " Unlike many previous estimates, we incorporate morphologically cryptic arthropod species from molecular-based species delimitation. We also include numerous groups of organisms that have not been simultaneously included in previous estimates, especially those often associated with particular insect host species (including mites, nematodes, apicomplexan protists, microsporidian fungi, and bacteria). Our estimates suggest that there are likely to be at least 1 to 6 billion species on Earth. Furthermore, in contrast to previous estimates, the new Pie of Life is dominated by bacteria (approxi-mately 70–90% of species) and insects are only one of many hyperdiverse groups.
In this article physiological, behavioural and morphological adaptations by the arctic fox to low temperatures and food scarcity in winter are discussed. The arctic fox (Alopex lagopus) adapts to the low polar winter temperatures as a result of the excellent insulative properties of its fur. Among mammals, the arctic fox has the best insulative fur of all. The lower critical temperature is below -WC, and consequently increased metabolic rate to maintain,homeothermy, is not needed under natural temperature conditions. Short muzzle, ears and legs, a short, rounded body and probably a counter-current vascular heat exchange in the legs contribute to reduce heat loss. A capillary rete in the skin of the pads prevents freezing when,standing on a cold substratum. By seeking shelter in snow lairs or in dens below the snow cover and by curling up in a rounded position, exposing only the best-insulated parts of the body, the arctic fox reduces heat loss. The arctic fox copes with seasonal fluctuations in food supply by storing fat and caching food items during summer,and fall. Saving energy through decreased activity and decreased basal metabolic rate might also be,an adaptation to food,scarcity in winter. Key words: arctic fox, basal metabolic rate, lower critical temperature, fat deposition, starvation RI~SUMÉ. Dans cet article, on discute des adaptations physiologiques, comportemental es et morphologiques du renard arctique aux tempkratures
Abstract— The percentage of pigmented to total bacteria in the outdoor atmospheric population was studied in the field and in controlled laboratory experiments to evaluate the effects of solar radiation (SR) on bacterial survival. The field experiments showed that the percentage of pigmented bacteria positively correlated with SR activity during clear summer days. The percentage was lowest during darkness before dawn and around midnight (ca 33%) and as the SR increased during the day, gradually increased to a maximum of ca 50–60% at noontime to early afternoon and decreased thereafter. In the laboratory the ambient outdoor atmospheric bacteria impacted on culture plates were exposed to simulated SR and a germicidal light. With increased exposure, more nonpig-mented bacteria were killed and the percentage of pigmented bacteria gradually increased. These observations suggest an inverse relationship between the atmospheric bacterial survival and the percentage of pigmented bacteria contained therein, thus supporting the notion that pigmentation might provide protection for outdoor atmospheric bacteria from sunlight damage. As a consequence, viable pigmented bacteria (and other UV-resistant forms) in the atmosphere could be enriched under areas of stratospheric ozone depletion.
A Table painted in 1686 with spots of colors on paper was investigated. It appears that the Table is composed of pure pigments, and their mixtures in a 1:1 proportion. However, there were some problems when analyzing the pure compounds and the mixtures, due to the interaction of some pigments, as degradation had occurred. Possible explanations of the nature of the compound are analyzed and discussed. Copyright © 2006 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
The antibacterial action of violet pigment, a mixture of violacein and deoxyviolacein, isolated from phychrotrophic bacterium RT102 strain was examined, and the operational conditions for the effective production of violet pigment were studied. The antibacterial activity of the violet pigment was confirmed for several bacteria such asBacillus licheniformis, Bacillus subtilis, Bacillus megaterium, Staphylococcus aureus, andPseudomonas aeruginosa, and the high concentration of violet pigment, above about 15 mg/L, caused not only growth inhibition but also death of cells. The growth properties of RT102 strain were clarified under various incubation conditions such as pH, temperature, and dissolved oxygen concentration. The maximum violet pigment concentration,i.e. 3.7 g/L, and the maximum productivity of violet pigment,i.e. 0.12 g L−1h−1, were obtained in a batch culture of pH 6, 20°C, and 1 mg/L of dissolved oxygen concentration.