A single celled organism eating its prey, an inside view of a termite's gut, and a parasite going 'Alien' on its host took top honors in Nikon's Small World in Motion Photomicrography competition. Ben Gruber reports.
Microscopic creatures can be terrifying! This was demonstrated by Wim van Egmond of the Micropolitan Museum in The Netherlands who won top prize in this year's 'Nikon Small World in Motion Photomicrography' competition. A single celled organism called a ciliate is seen here devouring its prey. Van Egmond scooped a water sample out of a friend's backyard pond and captured the microscopic predator just as it swallowed its prey whole. A note - these types of organisms exist in just about every body of water on Earth. Second place went to Danielle Parsons of World Science TV in the US. Using darkfield microscopy, she imaged the tiny critters that help break down wood in a termite's gut. The video shows the organisms seemingly working as a team to help their host insect digest. This host insect isn't as lucky… Gonzalo Avila from the University of Auckland placed third with this video..it resembles a famously horrifying scene from classic science fiction thriller 'Alien'. A wasp larva is imaged literally breaking out of the body of its host and spinning a cocoon. The scene took hours to unfold. Avila sped up the video to show the entire process in just moments. As nightmarish as this seems, these wasps actually play an important role in controlling the Gum-Leaf Skeletoniser Moth - a pest that causes serious damage to Eucalyptus trees in Australia and New Zealand. The Nikon competition aims to highlight the latest techniques in scientific imaging, shedding light on the microscopic... and sometimes creepy world surrounding us.