Photography

Erupting zombie fungus takes out unique science photography contest

Erupting zombie fungus takes out unique science photography contest
Overall winner. The fruiting body of a parasitic fungus erupts from the body of a fly
Overall winner. The fruiting body of a parasitic fungus erupts from the body of a fly
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Overall winner. The fruiting body of a parasitic fungus erupts from the body of a fly
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Overall winner. The fruiting body of a parasitic fungus erupts from the body of a fly
Relationships in nature category winner. A waxwing feasts on fermented rowan berries
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Relationships in nature category winner. A waxwing feasts on fermented rowan berries
Relationships in nature category runner up. A bat locates its dinner by tuning into a frog’s mating call
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Relationships in nature category runner up. A bat locates its dinner by tuning into a frog’s mating call
Biodiversity under threat category winner. A group of African elephants shelter from the sun under a baobab tree
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Biodiversity under threat category winner. A group of African elephants shelter from the sun under a baobab tree
Biodiversity under threat category runner up. A male wood frog clings to an egg mass
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Biodiversity under threat category runner up. A male wood frog clings to an egg mass
Life close up category winner. Gliding treefrog siblings at an early developmental stage
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Life close up category winner. Gliding treefrog siblings at an early developmental stage
Life close up category runner up. An anole lizard uses a bubble of air to breathe underwater
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Life close up category runner up. An anole lizard uses a bubble of air to breathe underwater
Research in action category winner. Researchers perform fieldwork during thunderstorms in the COVID-19 pandemic
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Research in action category winner. Researchers perform fieldwork during thunderstorms in the COVID-19 pandemic
Research in action category runner up. Researcher Brandon André Güell amidst thousands of reproducing gliding treefrogs
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Research in action category runner up. Researcher Brandon André Güell amidst thousands of reproducing gliding treefrogs
Highly commended entry. Bioluminescent fungi in the Bornean rainforest
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Highly commended entry. Bioluminescent fungi in the Bornean rainforest
Highly commended entry. A seabird’s stomach full of plastic waste
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Highly commended entry. A seabird’s stomach full of plastic waste
Highly commended entry. Researchers monitor Bermuda petrel eggs
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Highly commended entry. Researchers monitor Bermuda petrel eggs
View gallery - 12 images

A parasitic fungus exploding out of the body of its host has taken the top prize in this year’s BMC Ecology and Evolution photography competition, a unique contest run by scientists and designed to creatively highlight the relationships between different species.

The competition spans four simple categories: Relationships in Nature, Biodiversity Under Threat, Life Close Up, and Research in Action. The winners are judged by seniors members of the editorial board of the BMC Ecology and Evolution journal.

“Our senior Editorial Board Members used their expertise to ensure the winning images were picked as much for the scientific stories behind them as for the technical quality and beauty of the images themselves,” explained editor Jennifer Harman. “As such, the competition very much reflects BMC’s ethos of innovation, curiosity and integrity.”

Research in action category winner. Researchers perform fieldwork during thunderstorms in the COVID-19 pandemic
Research in action category winner. Researchers perform fieldwork during thunderstorms in the COVID-19 pandemic

The top prize this year went to evolutionary biologist Roberto García-Roa for an incredible shot taken in the Peruvian jungle of Tambopata. The image illustrates how a mind-controlling parasitic fungus blasts out of the body of its host once it has arrived at its optimal location for growth.

“The image depicts a conquest that has been shaped by thousands of years of evolution,” explained Garcia-Roa. “The spores of the so-called ‘zombie’ fungus have infiltrated the exoskeleton and mind of the fly and compelled it to migrate to a location that is more favourable for the fungus’s growth. The fruiting bodies have then erupted from the fly’s body and will be jettisoned in order to infect more victims.”

Relationships in nature category winner. A waxwing feasts on fermented rowan berries
Relationships in nature category winner. A waxwing feasts on fermented rowan berries

Winning the Relationships in Nature category was an incredible example of plant-bird interaction. The shot depicted a Bohemian Waxwing feasting on berries from the rowan tree. The presence of these sought-after berries influences the birds’ annual migrations. And the sometimes high ethanol content of the berries mean the birds evolved larger than average livers to process the fruit.

“While this relationship is highly beneficial for seed dispersal, it does not come without a cost for the birds,” explained photographer Alwin Hardenbol. “As the berries become overripe, they start to ferment and produce ethanol which gets Waxwings intoxicated, sometimes leading to trouble for the birds, even death. Unsurprisingly, Waxwings have evolved to have a relatively large liver to deal with their inadvertent alcoholism."

Highly commended entry. Bioluminescent fungi in the Bornean rainforest
Highly commended entry. Bioluminescent fungi in the Bornean rainforest

Take a look through our gallery at more highlights from this wonderful photography contest.

Source: BMC Ecology and Evolution

View gallery - 12 images
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