A Scientific Animation by Ciaran Moloney

“If nature were not beautiful it would not be worth knowing, and life would not be worth living. I am not speaking, of course, of the beauty which strikes the senses, of the beauty of qualities and appearances. I am far from despising this, but it has nothing to do with science. What I mean is that more intimate beauty which comes from the harmonious order of its parts, and which a pure
intelligence can grasp.” -
Henri Poincare


Selaginella apoda, or 'Meadow Spikemoss' is a small, insignificant looking plant, common to eastern North America. Despite its diminutive appearance, the plant has a fascinating and varied life cycle, which is summarized in this animation.

In collaboration with Dr. Christian Schulz of The New York Botanical Garden, the development of this plant, from female and male spores to mature vegetative plant was photographed, recorded and referenced during the creation of this visualization. By recording and measuring aspects of the plant's growth, a computer model of the plant's development was programmed and serves as a centerpiece to the animation.

This animation was produced as part of a Masters thesis at New York University, Center for Advanced Digital Applications.

Follow the links below to watch the animation.


Life Cycle: Selaginella apoda. Right-click and "Save-as" to download (QuickTime, H264)

HD (720p, 71 MB)

Small (12.5 MB)


Or watch the animation in HD at 

(click HD for high quality version)


Software used:

  • Softimage|XSI
  • Evasion X-DOF Studio
  • Pixologic ZBrush
  • Final Cut Pro

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