Behold, the weird and wonderful world of the extremely small.
The winners of the 2019 Nikon Small World Photomicrography competition have been revealed, showcasing some of the world's most beautiful images captured through a microscope this year. This year marks the 45th anniversary of Nikon Small World, having launched back in 1974, and was one of the biggest years yet, accounting for over 2,000 entries from almost 100 different countries across the world.
As ever, this year's winning images were picked for their scientific know-how and technical wizardry, along with their aesthetic qualities, such as composition, clarity, and use of color.
First place was awarded to microscopy technician Teresa Zgoda and recent university graduate Teresa Kugler for their painstakingly prepared and wonderfully colorful image of a turtle embryo.
“The embryo was about an inch and a quarter long, a little smaller than a walnut,” Zgoda told IFLScience.
“I had submitted two similar embryo pictures last year that received an honorable mention and image of distinction... I thought the other embryo photos had come out better, and was running out of things to submit for the contest since I had been out of microscopy for a while,” Zgoda said.
“I’m glad this one was chosen for the highest accord, although I didn’t expect it to get that far!”
Dr Igor Siwanowicz scooped the second prize for his composite image of three single-cell freshwater protozoans known as stentors. Not only is the image a technical feat, but it also captures the creatures in a stunning composition with impressive vibrancy.
“As far as single-cell organisms go, Stentor is a whale, measuring up to a whopping 2 millimeters in length. It is also a shape-shifter capable of changing its form in a blink of an eye, the propensity that proves rather a nuisance for anyone attempting to turn this protozoan into a microscopy sample,” explained Dr Siwanowicz, also speaking to IFLScience.
Third place was awarded to Daniel Smith-Paredes for his image of an alligator embryo captured during his research into the evolution and embryonic development of land vertebrates.
“I thought the alligator looked great but also showed something we usually don't see in research,” Smith-Paredes explained about his submission.
“Being able to visualize them like this allows us to understand how these tissues are developing in 3D and how they are interacting with each other while they develop. We are starting to get a much more complete view of what happens in the embryonic development by being able to see embryos like this.”
Along with these top 20 winning images, there were also a bunch of honorable mentions. You can check out a selection of these images below. You can also see last year's winners right here.
Editor's note: Tom Hale was one of the judges for the 2019 Nikon Small World competition.