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Cat skin and blood supply

David Linstead

A polarised light micrograph of a section of cat skin, showing hairs, whiskers and their blood supply. This sample is from a Victorian microscope slide. Blood vessels were injected with a red dye called carmine dye (here appearing black) in order to visualise the capillaries in the tissue, a newly developed technique at the time. This image is a composite made up of 44 individual images stitched together to produce a final image 12 mm in width.

Here, fine hairs (yellow), thicker whisker (yellow) and blood vessels (black) are all visible. Whiskers, unlike normal hair, are touch receptors, each containing a sensory organ called a proprioceptor. When a cat’s whiskers touch something, or feel vibrations in the air from a moving object, signals are sent from them to the brain to provide spatial awareness. Whiskers are therefore both a valuable hunting and survival tool.

The horizontal width of this image is 12 mm.

Imaging technique: Polarised light microscopy

Based on traditional light microscopy, polarised light microscopy uses filters that allow only light travelling in a specific orientation to pass. When this polarised light travels through certain materials, it is split into two different components. Polarised light microscopy takes advantage of this to produce a range of colours not usually observed in whatever is being sampled.

Location where image was created

Kent, UK

Image creator

David is a retired research scientist with 20 years’ experience in the drug research field. After pestering his parents for his first basic microscope when he was about nine or ten, his interest in microscopy has exceeded his career into retirement. In 2007 he joined the Quekett Microscopical Club based at the Natural History Museum, and has not looked back. David particularly enjoys exploring classic Victorian mounted slides: overlooked treasures from the heyday of slide preparation. Find out more.

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