First Place: Crown of Thorns
November 30, 2009--
An image featuring a water flea's "crown of thorns"--the snaking ridge at top left--took top honors in the 2009 BioScapes microscope imaging contest, announced earlier this month. If water flea parents sense that their habitat is shared by their main predators, tadpole shrimp, the flea offspring sport these pointy crowns--which are unappetizing to the shrimp.
Zoologist Jan Michels, of the Christian Albrecht University in Kiel, Germany, added a dye to reveal the tiny animal's exoskeleton (green) and cellular nuclei (blue smudges). The blue-and-red dots are one of the animal's compound eyes, like those of a fly.
(See last year's BioScapes winners
The "stunning and unusual depiction of a whole organism" was selected from a record 2,000-plus entries, including images and movies, competition organizers said in a statement. Michels took home U.S. $5,000 worth of Olympus equipment.
competition, sponsored by Olympus America, Inc., recognizes microscope photos of plants, animals, and other life-forms that capture the "fascinating minutia of life," according to Olympus.
"These images and movies reflect some of the most exciting research being done around the world and reveal the art that exists in optical microscopy," Olympus's Osamu Joji said in a statement.
Each year the company chooses a panel of microscope-imaging experts to judge the competition, which is open to anyone using a light microscope--the familiar apparatus from high school science classes, which uses visible light and lenses to magnify objects.
Photograph courtesy Dr. Jan Michels, Olympus BioScapes