The cosmic wilderness you see in this video is a snapshot of the micro-ecosystem that exists in the upper layer of skin on a mouse's tail. University of Cambridge biologist Claire Cox, who works with the Centre for Stem Cell Research, explains what you're seeing here in all its perfect complexity.

Cox writes:

The epidermis, which is the outer layer of mammalian skin, is maintained by numerous stem cell populations. The identification of the factors involved in controlling these populations and thus epidermal maintenance is highly valuable. Not only will it provide information as to how a complex tissue is organised and controlled, the principles that are learnt can be applied to other tissues. Through the work that I am completing, I hope that I can also gain a perspective as to what goes wrong in disease processes such as skin cancer. Skin cancer is one of the most prevalent cancers in the world, and understanding what goes wrong and the factors involved could potentially lead to new ideas as to prevention and treatment.

The image is 700µm in width - about the size of the period at the end of this sentence.

Many thanks to: Michaela Frye, Frye Lab members, Peter Humphreys, Margaret McLeish.

Music by Peter Nickalls

This is the tenth in a series of videos called Under the Microscope, which io9 is posting in partnership with scientists at University of Cambridge. Under the Microscope is a collection of videos that capture glimpses of the natural and artificial world in stunning close-up. They will be released every Monday and Thursday for the next couple of months, and you can see the whole series here.