See a Salamander Grow from a Single Cell


You, me, the lemurs in the trees, the snakes in the desert, and the squid in the deep sea—all of us began as a single cell. From the largest creature that’s ever existed—the blue whale—to the inch-long bumblebee bat, each of us can rewind our existence to the same humble foundation.

Amazingly, photographer and filmmaker Jan van IJken has captured these first fleeting moments. Using a combination of time-lapse photography and video recording, he molded them into a powerful new film called “Becoming.”

“My idea was to film the origin of life, the actual beginning of life,” says van IJken. “So I started to do research and I found out that frog and salamander eggs are fully transparent.”

From there, van IJken teamed up with an amphibian breeder who kept an extra-close watch on a captive population of alpine newts, which are a type of salamander. When a female laid a clutch of eggs and a male fertilized it, the breeder would call van IJken, who would then race over and begin filming through a microscope.

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