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iLabs: Rotifers – Who Found Them?

June 30, 2012

Yesterday I was asked by a visitor “who discovered rotifers?”  I wasn’t sure, and as I ALWAYS love questions and hunting their answers, I did some digging. Here’s what I found. Enjoy!

From the Manchester Microscopical Society’s Newsletter #18:

Rotifers were first discovered by Leeuwenhoek some 200 years ago and he explained how wonderfully nature has provided for the preservation of the species by their resistance to the drying up of their abodes and their resulting desiccation until moisture returns again. He wrote We can easily conceive that in all rainwater which is collected from gutters and in all waters exposed to the air, animals may be found, for they may be carried thither by the particles of dust blown about by the winds.”

Another place on this site notes he first described them in 1703. However I also found a link with a reprint from Microscopy the Journal of the Quekett Microscopical Club, vol 34, Part 5 that reveals Leeuwenhoek was already mentioning them to friends in letters as early as 1674.

So I think it’s safe to award Leeuwenhoek the prize for first mentions of rotifers in the literature. For Antony von Leeuwenhoek’s story, click here.

By the way, here is a great shot of a Rotifer:


At the base of the photo you can clearly see the cilia the rotifer uses to sweep food back toward its mouth. Behind the mouth is the mastax which is used to grind up the food before it enters the stomach and digestive area (dark reddish area). The mastax appears as two side-by-side circles resting just above that dark red central area.

My thanks for this photo, which is titled “PHILODINA ROSEOLA, EL ROTÍFERO INMORTAL by PROYECTO AGUA** /** WATER PROJECT, on Flickr”

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