World's first microbe 'zoo' opens in Amsterdam

2014-09-30 21:38
Tydeidae Lorryia formosa. (Microbia)

Tydeidae Lorryia formosa. (Microbia)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Amsterdam - The world's first "interactive microbe zoo" opened in Amsterdam on Tuesday, shining new light on the tiny creatures that make up two-thirds of all living matter and are vital for our planet's future.

The €10m Micropia museum is next to Amsterdam's Artis Royal Zoo, whose director came up with the idea of exposing an array of living microbes in a "micro-zoo" 12 years ago.

"Zoos have traditionally tended to show just a small part of nature, namely the larger animals," Haig Balian told AFP.

"Today we want to display micro-nature," said Balian, who believes the importance of microbes in our daily lives has been underestimated ever since Dutch scientist Antonie van Leeuwenhoek observed the microscopic creatures in the 17th century.

Microbes are often associated with illness, through viruses, bacteria, fungi and algae, but they are also essential for our survival and will play an increasingly important role in humanity and the planet's future, Balian said.

"Microbes are everywhere. Therefore you need microbiologists who can work in every sector: in hospitals, food production, the oil industry and pharmaceuticals, for instance," he said.

They are already used to produce biofuels, develop new type of antibiotics and improve crop yields.

Experiments have shown their future potential for everything from generating electricity to strengthening building foundations and curing cancer.

"If we leave the science of microbiology in the dark for just a few experts, interest in it will never develop," Balian said.

"We want to show visitors how everything in nature is interconnected and how fundamentally microbes are part of that connection."

Real-life lab

Each adult human body carries around 1.5kg of microbes, and we would die without them.

Microbes on eyes, in kisses

Much of the museum - which claims to be a world-first - looks like a laboratory, complete with rows of microscopes connected to giant television screens.

Visitors can look through a window at a real-life laboratory where different kinds of microbes are being reproduced in Petri dishes and test tubes.

Step into a lift and look up to see an animation of a camera zooming on someone's eye, revealing the tiny mites that live on our eyelashes. The camera then zooms in on bacteria on the mite and finally on a virus on the bacteria.

Visitors can watch microbes reproduce under a 3D-microscope, especially designed and built for Micropia, or see a giant scale model of the Ebola virus that's ravaging west Africa.

A microbe scanner will instantly tell how many microbes live on a visitor's body and where.

Bolder visitors can try the "Kiss-o-Meter" and be told how many microbes are being transferred as a couple kisses.

"Did you know that for instance there are 700 species of microbes living in your mouth? Or 80 kinds of fungi on your heel?" Balian asked with a smile.

"A visit to Micropia will forever change the way you see the world," said Balian.

Read more on:    netherlands  |  science

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.
NEXT ON NEWS24X

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
2 comments
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

 
/News

Book flights

Compare, Book, Fly

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.




Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.