Wednesday, June 12, 2013

From the Yarn Basket: In Case My Nerd-osity Was Ever in Question

I took on this knitting project as a way to thank and say goodbye to my thesis advisor. As you may remember, my thesis research centered around small microinvertebrates called rotifers. They are graceful little animals that swim around in pretty much any body of water you can find. They are called rotifers, or "wheel-bearers" because they have ciliated structures on their heads that they use to sweep food into their mouths. I used them to study the evolution of sexual reproduction because some types of rotifers reproduce exclusively asexually, while other types can use sexual or asexual reproduction. That's probably enough science for a post that is supposed to be about knitting, so I'll leave it at that. the important thing is that I studied these critters for the better part of six years, and to thank my advisor for all of his help and support, I decided to make him some stuffed animal versions.

As shocking as it may seem, searching the internet for a rotifer knitting pattern was not very successful. This meant I was on my own in figuring out a way to generate rotifers out of yarn. Challenge accepted! First up, the asexual rotifers, called the bdelloids. This type of rotifer was actually pretty easy to make because their shape is basically a tube. I used a microfiber grey yarn and size 5 double pointed needles to make my bdelloid.

Rotifer species,  Adineta vaga
The bdelloid rotifer Adineta vaga. The head is in the bottom left corner, the foot is in the top right.
Knitted soft model of the rotifer species, Adineta Vaga
The yarn version...I think I got pretty close!
The more challenging rotifer was the monogonont rotifer, which can reproduce by either sexual or asexual reproduction. The shape of the monogononts is a little more complicated, but I did some adjusting, and I'm pretty happy with how it turned out. I used the same yarn and needles for this one as I did with the bdelloid, but I added a new knitting technique to my repertoire. I knit the monogonont from tail to head, and to close the top, I used the kitchener's stitch, which is my new favorite trick. It's kind of like magic!
Rotifer species, Brachionus calyciflorus
The monogonont rotifer, Brachionus calyciflorus. Clockwise from top: male, female, and egg that got smushed a little bit by the microscope slide.

Knitted stuffed model of the rotifer species, Brachionus Calyciflorus
The yarn monogonont. I really like how the cilia turned out on this one!

So there you have it, folks: my nerdiest knitting project to date. If there are any suggestions for even nerdier projects, I'm all ears!

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