A micrograph, or microphotograph, of a sea urchin's crystalline tooth won first place and people's choice for photography in the 2012 International Science and Engineering Visualization Challenge.
Colors applied with Photoshop reveal the interlocking crystals that form the choppers of Arbacia punctulata. The biomineral crystals, captured by biophysicists from the University of Wisconsin, Madison, grow and intertwine to reinforce and sharpen a sea urchin's teeth. Made of calcite, which is also found in limestone and seashells, the crystals are tough enough to grind holes in rocks to create shelters.
"These winners continue to amaze me every year," said Monica M. Bradford, executive editor of the journal Science, in a statement. "The visuals are not only novel and captivating, but they also draw you into the complex field of science in a simple and understandable way."
Sponsored by Science and the National Science Foundation (NSF), the international competition honors recipients who use visual media to promote understanding of scientific research. Judging criteria included visual impact, effective communication, freshness, and originality. (See some of the 2011 winners.)
—Lacey Gray and Katia Andreassi