Becoming: Watch a Newt Grow From a Single Cell in 6 Minutes

An Alpine Newt's entire 3 week embryonic development is captured in a 6:15 minute time-lapse.
John Loeffler

In a new video released, a filmmaker captures the entire process of a single cell developing into a multicellular organism in stunning time-lapse photography.

From Cell to Multicellular in 6 Minutes

In a video posted on Aeon, the amphibious alpine newt is shown to progress through its entire developmental stage from a single embryonic cell to a complete organism in a time-lapse produced by photographer and filmmaker, Jan van IJken. Taken over a period of about three weeks, covering the entire period of gestation from cleavage to organogenesis, the timelapse was shortened to 6 minutes and 15 seconds.


The film, according to van IJken is about the “miraculous genesis of animal life.” As IJken points out, the early stages of animal life are largely indistinguishable from one another and hidden from view. The video has been screened at over 20 international film festivals and has received an Award for Best Short Documentary at the Innsbruck Nature Film Festival in 2018.

According to Jan van IJken’s website, van Ijken is “self-taught and is working mainly autonomously on long-term projects. As a photographer, he developed a strong eye for natural light, composition, and detail. Lately, he has become more and more interested in human-animal relationships, nature, and microscopy.”


The alpine newt is native to central Europe, with a few introductions to parts of Britain. Adults can grow up to 11 centimeters long and can sport several colors, depending on sex.

Favoring wooded areas, they tend to stick to ponds without fish in them and are active at night. Females lay about 200 eggs a year and these larvae live in the water during their tadpole phase, feasting on invertebrates such as water fleas until they move on to land as juveniles, known as efts, in Autumn.

Larvae are prey to dragonfly larvae, fish, and adult Alpine Newts.

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