It's a small world after all—at least in the world of photomicrography.
Wim Van Egmond is one of Small World's most prolific photomicrographers and scored top honors with this detailed image of a diatom, using contrast to bring out the gymnastic rhythm of the bristles.
"I approach micrographs as if they are portraits," said Egmond. "The same way you look at a person and try to capture their personality, I observe an organism and try to capture it as honestly and realistically as possible."
"This competition brings together some of the top talent from around the world, from all walks of life and scientific disciplines," said Eric Flem, communications manager at Nikon Instruments.
Click through to see the gallery of selected images from the Top 20 and Honorable Mentions of the competition—no microscope necessary.
Wim van Egmond, Micropolitan Museum, Courtesy of Nikon Small World
No, this isn't science fiction come to life—it's a marine worm, whose bulging skin and spooky spikes led to a third place finish. With its foreboding feelers and a bulbous head, we might have our next superhero villain.
Photograph by Dr. Alvaro, Universidade de São Paulo, Esteves Migotto, Courtesy of Nikon Small World
Arrr, it's a real pirate's nest! A pirate spider's egg sac is protected in a nest of brown twine-like material that offers a pretty home, protection from the outside world for the growing embryo, and an honorable mention in the contest.
Photograph by Geir Drange, Courtesy of Nikon Small World
Glow in the Dark
Almost psychedelic, a beetle's adhesive pad appears celebratory, flaunting neon bristles that dance in the dark.
A primary color scheme and textured fluorescent effects make for a seemingly three-dimensional experience, garnering the retro masterpiece a seventh place mention.
Photograph by Dr. Jan Michels, Christian-Albrechts-Universität zu Kiel
Kiel, Courtesy of Nikon Small World
Dinosaur bone is delicately enrobed by clear agate, creating an ornate, fragile shield that is tens of millions of years in the making—and earning tenth place honors in the competition.
Photograph by Ted Kinsman, Rochester Institute of Technology, Courtesy of Nikon Small World
Lightning strikes meet x-ray vision in this photograph of cortex neurons in a mouse's brain.
Electric thoughts for this mouse? Perhaps the little rodent was dreaming of a 17th place award.
Photograph by Dr. Alexandre William Moreau, University College London, Courtesy of Nikon Small World
This honorable mention photomicrograph may seem at first glance to be a computer graphic, but it actually reveals a flower's earliest moments in action.
The meteorite of hot pink with a trailing tail of turquoise surrounding a central lemon shape in this photo is actually a view of a thale cress flower's embryo sac.
The pink meteorite is a collection of "synergid" cells that steer pollen to the embryo, which is the lemon shape in the center of the image. The turquoise scaffold surrounding the cells depicts filaments that hold the cells together.
Photograph by Dr. Tomokazu Kawashima, Temasek Life Sciences Laboratory, Courtesy of Nikon Small World
This embryo is going to be one cute chameleon. Nearly ready for the world, the fetal bones are red while its cartilage is blue.
We'll be holding a birthday party soon for this babe, who earned sixth place honors.
Photograph by Dorit Hockman, University of Cambridge, Courtesy of Nikon Small World
Think this is a neat little shrub? Think again. The small intestines of a mouse become a maze of snow-tipped greenery in this photomicrograph, which made rodent guts look like fine art to garner an honorable mention.
Photograph by Dr. Bryan A. Millis, National Institutes of Health, Courtesy of Nikon Small World
A Renaissance painting, this isn't: This photo captures the watercolor-like beauty of a liverwort and is reminiscent of a classical work of art.
With its cheesecloth-like leaves and tangled roots, this eighth place photomicrograph is breathtakingly modern, yet classic.
Photograph by Magdalena Turzańska, University of Wrocław, Courtesy of Nikon Small World