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See a salamander grow from a single cell

A filmmaker has captured mesmerizing and intimate details of an alpine newt's first days.


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.

“It was quite complicated,...

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