The winners of the 2018 BMC Ecology Image Competition have been announced and, as ever, the images reveal the ingenuity, warmth, and destructive power of dear ol’ Mother Nature.
From the entries, an overall winner was announced, as well as two runner-ups and five category winners. The winner of the Overall Category reveals the beauty and brilliance of evolution – a delicate butterfly freshly emerged from its chrysalis with the backdrop of its home, the cloud forests of the Andean Mountains, seen through its transparent wings.
1 - The Enigmatic Clearwing Butterfly by Marianne Elias, Sorbonne Université, France (Overall)
"This photo does a fantastic job of showcasing the striking beauty of a rather enigmatic species little known to people, whose transparent wings still raise multiple questions regarding its evolution,” said guest judge Professor Zhigang Jiang of the Chinese Academy of Sciences in a statement.
The transparency of its wings is caused by modifications to the shape of its wing scales and from tiny structures on the surface that act as anti-reflectors.
2 - My treasure! by Pilar Oliva Vidal of the University of Lleida – ETSEA, Spain (First Runner-Up)
A griffon vulture spreads its wings in a powerful display of dominance, shielding the carcass of a wild boar. Despite their often maligned reputation, vultures are vital to a healthy ecosystem.
“They can detect and strip a carcass in a few minutes – which inhibits the spread of pathogens and reduces the need for the treatment and incineration of domestic animal remains, as well as avoiding the resulting emissions of thousands of tons of carbon dioxide,” said Vidal.
3 - Hungry Dugongs Have No table Manners by Matteo Santon of the University of Tuebingen, Germany (Second Runner-Up)
This hungry dugong is foraging in a seagrass patch near Marsa Alam, Red Sea. Although this blubbery vegetarian seems to be doing well for herself, the species is at risk of extinction. This dugong is foraging at a depth of 24 meters (79 feet) as two pilot fish scavenge off its food scraps.
4 - Home In Mother’s Arms by Arnaud Badiane of iEES-Paris, Sorbonne University, Paris, France (Category Winner: Behavioral and Physiological Ecology)
A little Barbary macaque has snuggled into a nook in its mother's arms, the perfect spot with which to stay warm and peer out at its fellow primates in Gibraltar.
5 - Little treasures of the steppes by Pilar Oliva Vidal of the University of Lleida – ETSEA, Spain (Category Winner: Conservation Ecology and Biodiversity Research)
“We chose this picture because of the composition of colors, and because it shows both the biotic and abiotic components of the featured ecosystem,” said Section Editor Josef Settele. “We also very much liked the author’s story: on many occasions, steppe ecosystems are subject to human influence, mainly of intensive agriculture, which negatively affect flora and fauna. Steppe birds are amongst the most threatened groups of birds in Europe.”
6 - Meadow Brown & Solitary Bee by William Mills of the University of Brighton, UK (Category Winner: Community, Population, and Macroecology)
Captured in the Bedelands Farm Local Nature Reserve in Burgess Hill, East Sussex, a solitary bee visits the same flower as a much bigger butterfly. Wildflower grassland habitats have been greatly reduced over the last 80 years in the UK. Thankfully, people have taken notice and started work to expand habitats within local and national nature reserves.
7 - Kilauea Volcano by Sabrina Koehler of Kiel University, Germany (Category Winner: Landscape Ecology and Ecosystems)
Almost everyone appreciates a good lava photo, especially with the ghoulish orange glow from the aftermath of a recent eruption. In this case, the Pu’u O’o eruption site of the Kilauea Crater in 2018.
“This picture is a nice illustration of the destructive power of an extreme disturbance that will create the opportunity of reinitiating ecological succession," said Section Editor Michel Baguette. "It captures the simultaneous end and beginning of many eco-evolutionary processes – a wonderful example of what A. L. Lavoisier (1743–1792) famously stated: 'nothing is lost, nothing is created, everything is transformed.'"