Artwork gallery

The Foundation promotes artistic projects inspired by the variety of forms and structures in foraminifera and other shelled protists.

Our mission is to perpetuate Ernst Haeckel’s tradition to bridge art and science, to link the dazzling array of life forms and their unique aesthetic values. The outline of the organisms so beautifully illustrated in «Kunstformen aus dem Meer» did not change since the last century while the scientific exploration of their diversity and the aesthetic canons moved forward at an extraordinary speed.

Every scientist or artist who is fascinated by the universe of these minute architects is welcome to expose his or her artworks in our gallery and support the Foundation.



Wisława Szymborska Nobel Prize in Literature 1996

  • Foraminifera

    from “Here: new poems” Translated from Polish by Clare Cavanagh and Stanislaw Baranczak. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company, 2010.

    Well then, let's take the Foraminifera.

    They lived, since they were, and were, since they lived.

    They did what they could since they were able.

    In the plural since the plural,

    although each one on its own,

    in its own, since in its own

    small limestone shell.

    Time summarized them later
    in layers, since layers,

    without going into details,

    since there's pity in the details.

    And so I have before me

    two views in one:

    a mournful cemetery made
    of tiny eternal rests

    rising from the sea,

    the azure sea, dazzling white cliffs,

    cliffs that are here because they are.

  • The four seasons

    The four seasons

    When is it spring?
    When bumblebees brush their translucent wings
    and blackbirds, each a little king,
    in the evening of their royal gardens sing
    when the sea wears brilliant blue and green again
    and flocks of sheep graze diligently on the fen
    and flocks of Ammonia graze slowly on an algal lane

    When is it summer?
    When golden waves pass around the fields of corn
    and iridescent dragonflies the swaying reed adorn
    when the marshlands steady green
    is counterpointed by the flowers sheen
    and shoals of nimble fishes cross the silvery sea
    and shoals of tiny Ammonia drift reckless in their lee

    When is it autumn?
    When berries, red and black and blue
    emblaze the bushes with a luscious hue
    when beaches, ripe with stranded goods
    assemble seaweed and exotic woods
    when herds of crabs feast on the strand
    and herds of Ammonia lay between the grains of sand

    When is it winter?
    When the vermillion evening sun
    is caught in the hibernal grey net that the twilight spun
    and stretched along the horizon between sea and sky
    when northern winds the sharp-edged coldness ply
    then life in the sea takes a well-earned rest
    and all Ammonia dream, each hidden in its test

  • The Sunday protist

    The Sunday protist

    Have you ever noticed
    how beautiful Gromia is as a protist
    its body a perfect sphere
    its filopodes staunch and clear
    its tiny soul mingled with golden brown sediment
    and wrapped by a honey comb membrane that is utterly elegant
    with a pedigree that goes back to Cambrian times
    and Neptun grants them a home without confines
    theirs must be a happy life
    as they prosper and they thrive

  • The Xenophyophorans

    The Xenophyophorans

    Time drops down as slow in our realm
    as a seabird's feather dwindling to the ocean's ground
    The abyss carries the weight of the world
    and darkness preys upon the amber drips of time
    Few things will ever change here and being free of boredom we value steadiness
    We are dark stars spread on the night-soft ocean floor
    and each of us is an island; this we recognize
    but we are able to create a world of our own
    We are castles and fortresses defying the surrounding emptiness
    and offering home and shelter to many different beings
    Each of us is a harbor anchored in the deep sea

  • The Ocean

    The Ocean

    I asked the allogromiid
    the oldest and wisest inhabitant of the sea
    (so it calls itself)
    How does an ocean arise?

    Hearing this question
    the allogromiid beamed with pride
    happy to share its knowledge
    and emitting a bright orange glow

    The ocean it said as big as it might be
    is hatched in a puddle
    A pond will be its cradle
    where it will huddle
    under duckweed and water lilies

    Lakes will guard the ocean child
    and it will spend its early life as a sea
    For seas are part of the ocean but smaller
    and their names carry on dreams in humans

    There is the turquoise Caribbean
    and the ice shielded Barents Sea
    The Baltic with its tropic white beaches
    and dark green spruce forests

    The Red and Black and White Sea
    all displaying different shades of blue
    And the Coral Sea
    where rainbows dip into the water
    leaving thousands of colors behind
    picked up by those who live there

    And there are the five big players
    the Pacific, the Atlantic, the Indian,
    the Southern and the Arctic Ocean
    Full of adventures for those
    who dare to cross them

    I mused about the allogromiid’s answer
    and later on I asked the erudite foraminifer
    Can you tell me how an ocean disappears?
    Of course it said and busily plaited its pseudopodes
    The continents drink them when they get thirsty
    They sip them like a cup of coffee
    and all that’s left behind is coffee ground
    you call it mountains

  • Toxisarcon


    Forget hydra and chimera
    I know some mighty foraminifera
    that are as poisonous as a basilisk
    and as explosive as a stellar disk
    at supernova risk

    Their arms are manifold and strong
    glistening bands that end in a prong
    Whatever they catch they never let go
    plenty of creatures dread this serious foe

    Their homes are trenches they dig in the sand
    their bodies half-hidden and ready to expand
    and ensnarl whoever passes their lair
    Oh humble human be cautious and aware
    of Toxisarcon the perilous foraminifer

  • Orbulina


    No roundness is rounder than your refined sphere
    They say the world is round but this is mere
    politeness; her poles are flattened-such deflection
    you refuse; your globe is distinguished by perfection
    And you hold a surprise inside your globular test:
    some smaller ones hidden in that spherical nest!

  • Flagellates


    Whirling swirling and curling around bacteria
    Dancing prancing and advancing their cytostomata
    Spinning swimming and skimming an algae on the move
    Flinching inching and then squinching flagellas in their groove

    And you?

    Observe their terrific swerve
    That moment you want to preserve
    When they race in a sinusoidal curve
    Press the shutter button with verve
    Capture a picture think you are done
    While they are


  • Baculogypsina


    Under the spell of plenty
    Baculogypsina came into being
    Shaped like little stars
    adorned with floral pattern
    and grooved spines to tiptoe along reefs
    they are the art nouveau ornaments of the sea

    They occur in mythical numbers
    in a perpetually replenished abundance
    Here is one and next to it another one
    and so on until they end up as countable infinites

    There is power in this plenitude
    as galaxies of Baculogypsina
    circle islands to form beaches
    and pile up as sand around reefs
    In the world of microscopic creatures
    multiplicity can lead
    to astonishing achievements

  • Shepheardella


    Up there is the desert
    radiating in tellurian colors
    enhanced by sunlight

    Its tremendous void
    filled by susurrating wind
    that strokes over stones

    You may not suspect it
    but it is the sand
    all those tiny magnificent grains
    that hold the desert together

    Down there is the reef
    patches of corals, sponges
    algae and anemones

    A universe of swirling colors
    swiftly moving like the fish
    Or immobile except for polyps and tentacles
    gracefully dandling in the rhythm of waves

    And if you look close enough
    you will see tiny bright threads
    meandering along the reef

    This is Shepheardella, a foraminifera
    that comes closest to the idea
    of a perfect shade of orange

    It weaves itself into pebbles
    bridges stones and algae
    and sometimes interlaces
    empty tests of its cousins
    the soritaceans

    You may not suspect it
    but it is Shepheardella
    that stitches the reef together

  • Lake Geneva

    Lake Geneva

    The scientist kept time with rowing
    he went out on the lake
    in a wooden skiff above him
    a red kite trundled announcing
    the daily recreation of the world
    with piercing cries

    This happened more than hundred years ago
    I imagine the scientist dressed like a gentleman
    according to the fashion of his time

    Wearing a frock coat and a shirt
    with a choker and a soft silken tie
    and of course a hat as no gentleman
    would leave his domicile bareheaded

    He might have removed the tie
    and opened the collar later on
    when he was far from the shore
    and shipped the oars letting the boat
    glide on the glassy surface of the water

    Maybe he contemplated the beauty of the lake
    for in an early summer morning
    its water is the anagram of light
    just a bit more dense

    Or he enjoyed the view
    of the surrounding mountains
    with their lace-work of glaciers
    or maybe he was thinking
    about Aristotle and Pliny
    the forefathers of all naturalists

    Or maybe it was none of that
    and his mind was just filled
    with a short repetitive phrase
    “I want I want I want”
    as is mine each time I go out
    hunting foraminifers

    A coarse and plain mantra
    a primeval prayer
    to the hunting goods

    In those days it was sufficient
    to plunge a tin can fixed on a string
    into the lake until it hit the bottom
    a low quantity of sediment was brought up
    in it and for sure it contained foraminifers

    Allogromiids with agglutinated tests
    He also collected them
    on walks along the shore
    by taking sediment samples
    as easily as we collect pebbles
    or a bunch of wild flowers

    The scientist described these foraminifers
    and bestowed upon them simple
    but elegant Latin names

    Even the countryside had its share
    of allogromiids he discovered a species
    living in a small pond near a farm
    I imagine the cows with their skewbald bellies
    surrounding the scientist and snuffling at his back
    when he bent over the pond edge

    Since then nature had to become more productive
    and small ponds disappeared
    and those allogromiids could no more survive
    in Lake Geneva and vanished as silently
    as they had lived there

    As with so many small things we lost them
    while stepping forward into the future

  • A sunday afternoon spent in the agreeable presence of an allogromiid

    A sunday afternoon spent in the agreeable presence of an allogromiid

    I have seen the ammonites
    they gracefully sailed through the water
    their arms slowly trailing over the sediment
    in search of food
    their pearly shells adorned with rough-hewn ornaments:
    ancient hieroglyphs that cannot be deciphered anymore

    I have seen the dinosaurs
    my family lived in their footsteps
    when they moved through the shallow sea
    the bottom rolled like thunder
    and the sediment rose in large clouds
    a turbid brown carpet

    I have seen the furry bipeds
    venturing into the sea
    strolling with an equal amount of caution and pride
    along the coastline
    producing a lot of strange sounds
    collecting bivalves and trying to catch fish

    A young one of their species ambled through the puddles
    left by the retiring sea
    until he suddenly stopped, bent down and said "Oh!"
    He saw us, living on an algal mat
    perfect bright orange spheres
    woven into a silvery-green tapestry

    That's when they first discovered beauty

  • Psammosphaera


    A foraminifera named Psammosphaera
    displays a cragged test like a palimpsest
    Scratch away the sand and gravel and unravel
    a pale little moon sheltered by its agglutinated cocoon
    an allogromiid round as a balloon, a magical rune
    remaining unseen inside its home this in between

  • If


    If there is no monster on the roof
    with an allogromiid on its hoof
    and no scarecrow in the barn
    using pseudopodes to yarn
    and no Pyrgo in the pantry
    smoked and stored across the entry
    and no dragon in the basket
    guarding Nonion in its casket
    and no cider in the cellar
    containing Cornuspira as a dweller
    and no ogre in the bed
    wearing Patellina as a hat
    and no Ammonia in the attic
    striving to be acrobatic
    and no grimoire on the shelf
    dealing with the foram's self
    and no Bathysiphon in the book
    then the old witch cannot cook!

  • Problem solving

    Problem solving

    I asked the allogromiid:
    What came first, the hen or the egg?
    Funny question, replied the foraminifer
    It was us, of course.

  • Foraminiferan riddles

    Foraminiferan riddles

    A wheel an eye a reel
    The ocean’s privy seal
    A circle’s wonderful ideal
    Who is so nifty and genteel?

    Chamber after chamber they grow
    All of them neatly aligned in a row
    Sediment grains are used as ornaments
    Who are these marine monuments?

    Ruby red branches extend from a rock
    Miniature forests and trees built of chalk
    A translucent web and no leaf
    Do you know the ones who weave?

    1: Amphisorus
    2: Reophax
    3: Miniacina

  • Asterigerina carinata

    Asterigerina carinata

    Under the petal-grooved corals
    in the tangled branches of algae
    on the heaped grains of sand
    lives the oracle to diatoms

    Come, says the oracle, come
    I will transport you in the safety net
    of these fanned-out pseudopodes
    to my marvelous gyroscopic dome

    Look at the calcified furrows
    gracing the entrance
    You will be sorted heedfully
    and arrive one by one

    There is the possibility
    to start a new inner life
    in my transparent refuge
    This glassy stronghold
    keeps the world at bay

    Come, says the oracle, come
    Will you come too?

  • Allogromia


    You are like a micro sun
    nesting on the sea bottom
    shining in warm yellow
    or vivid orange all day long

    Your rays of pseudopodes
    build a translucent mesh
    When you cast this net
    what do you catch?

    Certainly algae and bacteria
    during the weekdays
    While on Sundays you might prefer to dine
    on a soup of dissolved organic matter

    But such a finely woven net
    trawls for more than that
    You catch the shadow of a cloud
    that sails along the firmament
    And the sizzling fury of lightening
    when it strikes the ocean

    Sunrays get entangled
    in your pseudopodial web
    and frolicking gusts of wind
    that dress the sea with whitecaps

    And sometimes you capture dreams
    that have been lost or forgotten
    and finally transported by the rivers
    into the sea like fallen leaves

    What do you do with your surplus catch?
    The sea takes it and transforms it
    into a stream of air bubbles
    that raise from the ground
    dancing towards the ocean’s surface
    to the eternal amazement and delight
    of fishes

  • Metamorphosis


    It is said that trolls consist of stone
    Sure they must be pebbles at birth
    Small and inconspicuous infants sheltered by a stone case
    who grow into sturdy adults eating Caledonian granite
    sprinkled with Proterozoic sediments

    I sometimes wonder if trolls adopt agglutinated foraminifers
    After all they could be well a juvenile stage in troll development
    Consider Astrorhiza:
    A primordial disc built of sediment grains
    steering through the universe of an ocean
    with its tubular extensions

    Astrorhiza’s agglutinated prolongations
    might well develop into a pair of stable legs
    and a pair of arms for hands-on approach
    And who would deny that with a little coiling effort
    one such appendage can easily change into a lithoidal head

    Of course once grown up trolls don't live in the sea anymore
    Nor do they keep foraminiferal habits; they do what trolls do
    Such as sitting together enjoying a cup of herbal lava tea
    and a conversation about whether it is better
    to lead an active or a contemplative life

    Montaigne has discussed this in his essays
    and Cicero and Seneca had definite opinions on this subject
    but trolls probably built their own philosophy around that question
    From time to time they also like to debate important issues
    with the creatures that surround them
    such as are the advantages of small and furry beings in their number
    if not in their claws and teeth and what about the still smaller beings
    that are eaten by them?

    When they get older trolls like to sit down
    quietly watching northern sunsets
    that inflame the sky beyond the horizon
    and sometimes they just stay seated
    pondering the spectacular beauty of this daily event
    growing trees on their heads and ferns around their eyebrows

    Until one day they become too old and crumble into a million pieces
    swept into the sea
    and a new generation of Astrorhiza arises

  • Notodendrodes


    There is a continent that dreams
    anchored with its roots of stone
    in the polar ocean’s wintry blue

    A rimy blanket covers all of it
    under a harvest moon of frozen gold
    snowflakes ripen into icicle down

    In its sleep the old land hears again
    the whirring sound of a million wings
    and a million trees are fanning-out
    their leaves in a pleasant breeze

    and rivers whose water mirrors
    the color of the sky above
    busily cross the continent
    and sometimes fishes mount to their surface
    with a silver twinkle of their scales

    Such are the dreams of continents
    and this one is guarded in its sleep
    by Notodendrodes that grow along its rim
    as tiny underwater trees
    with dainty stems and branches
    a bark of neatly arranged sediment grains
    and leaves of tangled pseudopodes

    In their delicate otherness
    Notodendrodes keep a promise
    that one day the continent will wake up
    and hear again the whirring sound of a million wings
    and a pleasant breeze will sway the leaves
    of a million trees

  • Treasure Island

    Treasure Island

    The island is wrapped in Mediterranean scents
    of herbs and pine trees
    a sweet and wild airiness

    People have settled on it
    from different empires
    and with different intentions
    The entitled inhabitants

    are lizards sparkling green
    and olive trees as time keepers
    older than anything else
    that lives there

    The sea that holds the island
    wears Homer’s color: grape-blue
    But around its green rimmed shore
    the water is of translucent calm

    and through the diaphanous surface
    tufts of coralline red algae can be seen
    that bow gracefully to the waves
    their branches populated with foraminifers

    of different tribes and various shapes
    there are purple Peneroplis with striate tests
    each of them a finely chiseled cornucopia
    and Elphidium little wheels of fortune

    that carry their color like a blazon
    significant orange yellow or green
    some of them loaded with ornaments
    in baroque density attesting an opulent spirit

    Laevipeneroplis prefer the puristic version
    of a smooth test painted in hushed green
    while Planorbulinella thoroughly attached
    are mounds of rounded chambers

    with superbly drilled pores celebrating precision
    and Quinqueloculina call attention to them
    by their sheer number and their tests
    being the gamut for degrees of whiteness

    The sea takes a broad view on dissipating treasures
    It only requires curiosity to look for them

  • Sampling


    The open ocean is a conjugation of time
    The line of water that melts into the horizon
    has always been existing and will be there
    Nothing on earth is more constant than that

    The Wadden Sea is a conjugation of space
    Land traces the water and water trails the land
    and in this vast intermediate world
    nothing is ever definite

    When I went there for sampling
    I saw that it was a busy shore
    where sandpipers ran their errands
    with swift movements their beaks like elegant rapiers
    challenged the creatures hiding in the sediment

    Seagulls sailed effortlessly through the air
    always on the lookout for news
    They registered my arrival
    and how I walked along the coast
    striding across the uncharted territories
    of the mesopsammon

    In such a large tidal flat there are boundless possibilities
    of choosing sampling points

    Take this said the god of mud and sand
    who rarely lets somebody go without a present
    and who is honored by worms and bivalves and most dogs

    So I picked up a spoonful of sediment next to my feet
    and another one from a puddle where diatoms covered
    the surface like a brown velvet carpet and continued
    until I hade filled the sampling jars

    It only took the foraminifers a few hours
    To climb up the walls of the jars
    hundreds of tiny yellow dots
    bursting with the clear and passionate energy
    of those raised by the sea