Kate Solbakk


Ciliate death

This illustration is based on an incredible video captured by James Weiss (link below). The video shows the final, desperate moments of a ciliate trying to repair itself before it finally disintegrates and fades away.

This video caused a stir on the internet, sparking a minor existential crisis for many as we considered that even a single-celled organism can have a will to live. Many were caught off guard by the empathy and sadness they felt for this tiny creature as they watched it struggle against some unknown force that was tearing it apart. It's not clear exactly why the cell membrane fell apart, but it is clear that the ciliate is actively trying to fix itself and stay alive, fighting for as long as it could to hold itself together.

I was inspired to draw this particular moment where half the cell looked perfectly normal, and half of it is simply a cloud of nutrients in the water. It's a reminder that the state of being alive is complex beyond our comprehension, and that every single living thing, including the tiniest microbes, has exactly the same drive to maintain that state for as long as possible.

The video can be found here.

If you like this artwork, you can order a print of it here or support me on Ko-fi. For inquiries about DIY prints, licensing, commissions, collaborations or just to share enthusiasm about microbes, please email post@mikroliv.no, or send a message on Instagram. I love hearing from you!