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Dazzling photographs reveal the world on a microscopic scale

From a close-up of a 1-millimetre-wide coral polyp to a shot of a tiger beetle clasping a fly, these photos are some of the top entries in the Nikon Small World 2022 Photomicrography competition

Life 19 October 2022

A fly under the chin of a tiger beetle

A fly under the chin of a tiger beetle

Murat Öztürk

SITTING at the intersection of microscopy and art, these dazzling images are some of the best entries for the Nikon Small World 2022 Photomicrography competition, a global contest that showcases the beauty of science on the microscale.

A fly is clasped by its eyes under the chin of a tiger beetle in the image above, the 10th place entry taken by Murat Öztürk. But this is no tender embrace. Thanks to their strong jaws and ability to run at up to 8 kilometres per hour, tiger beetles make for formidable predators for their prey, which also include ants, spiders and caterpillars.

Autofluorescence of a single coral polyp (approx. 1 mm)

Autofluorescence of a single coral polyp

Brett M. Lewis

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Above is an image showing the autofluorescence of a 1-millimetre-wide coral polyp, an organism that forms colonies that make up the bulk of a coral reef. Taken by Brett M. Lewis, it came in 12th place. Lewis used the technique of fluorescence imaging, in which high-intensity illumination is used to excite the fluorescent molecules in a sample, to take his shot.

Slime mold (Lamproderma)

Slime mold (Lamproderma)

Alison Pollack 2021

The spherical spore fruiting bodies, or sporangia, of a slime mould from the genus Lamproderma, taken by Alison Pollack and placed in fifth, is shown in the image above.

Breast alveoli in lactation

Breast alveoli in lactation

Caleb Dawson

The image above is the competition’s runner-up, taken by Caleb Dawson. It shows myoepithelial cells of breast tissue wrapped around clusters of cells called alveoli that produce breast milk. The myoepithelial cells were stained with fluorescent dyes before being captured with a confocal microscope.

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