Michigan State University masthead

The Diversity and Intricate Beauty of Invertebrates

West Gallery
Feb. 4 through April

Image of The Diversity and Intricate Beauty of Invertebrates Exhibit
Artist: James W. Atkinson http://www.aestheticmollusc.com
MSU Professor of Zoology

Those of us who seek to conserve the North American wetlands usually invoke human associations with large, charismatic animals, such as fish, birds and mammals. However, within those wetlands are microscopic creatures who participate in a web of interactions upon which fish, birds, and we depend. Most people are unaware of the tremendous diversity and beauty of these animals. I claim these creatures to be beautiful not just because I find them pleasing to look at, but also because of their incredibly intricate structures and/or behaviors. These structures and behaviors have resulted from a process of evolution that has brought all of us together in a vast web of relationships.

Just as the aesthetic qualities of large charismatic animals may prompt us to try to preserve the habitat in which they live, it is my hope that recognition of the aesthetic qualities of these microscopic creatures will strengthen our desire to preserve these habitats. Only by preserving them can we come to fully understand them and appreciate their importance. Knowledge of our scientific understanding of the living world does not exclude the recognition of its beauty and its potential to provide meaning to our experience.

These images are not scientific illustrations. They have neither the detail nor the exact accuracy required of such. Rather they are an attempt to convey the aesthetic qualities of these animals as I perceive them and to place them in their natural context. My training and years of experience as a scientist have certainly informed my perceptions, and I have tried to be reasonably accurate in my depictions. Nevertheless these are works of art. I hope you find them worthwhile.