sharing our knowledge.
Photographic gallery.  Thousands of particles under the microscope.
Household Fibers Under the Microscope

Feather, Cat Hair, and Mercerized Cotton

The top, bright short fiber is mercerized cotton fiber with a red dye. The fiber below it is the cat hair. The bottom fiber is a bird feather barbule. This image shows some of the morphological differences for these different types of fibers.

Transmitted Off Cross Polarized Light Illumination


Significance in the Environment:

Characteristic Features:

The bird feather barbule has little barbs at regularly spaced nodes. The spacing of the nodes, the shape of the nodes, the shape of the barbs, and the distribution of pigment help identify the type of feather (down, flight, contour, etc.) and the genera of the bird. The cat hair is an example of a mamalian hair. There are three main parts of the hair shaft; the surface cuticle, the cortex, and the central medulla. The cuticle is a series of "scales". The shape and spacing of the scales helps in the identification of the genius of the animal along with the size, shape, and fine structure of the medulla. The distribution of pigment granuals, vacuoles, fissures, and the staining of the cortex adds more detail to the characterization of the hair. It is possible to identify a specific individual in a population with a reasonably high probability by fully characterizing the hair. Mercerized cotton has lost the characteritic "twist" of cotton as a result of being treated chemically with an alkaline solution. Its optical properties also change in that the birefringence is reduced and the change in intensity of the retardation color is greater on rotation than with mature, untreated cotton.

Associated Particles: