The science journal BMC Ecology and Evolution recently held an image competition to showcase the dramatic diversity of Earth’s ecosystems. From the tiny tragedy of a wasp easting a spider to the anticipation just before a snake strikes, these photos show a range of scenes often never witnessed by humans. Here are the seven contest winners.
A School of Jackfish
The overall winner of the competition was this shot of a jack fish school in a spiral formation off an island in the Great Barrier Reef. Kristen Brown, a researcher at the University of Pennsylvania who took the photograph, said in the Biomed Central release that “Coral reefs with high coral cover and plentiful fish populations like this one at Heron Island on the Great Barrier Reef are sadly becoming rarer. Without a concentrated effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and improve water quality, coral reefs as we know them are at risk of disappearing within our lifetime.”
A Hungry Wasp
Delicious, right? This image won the competition’s category for behavioral ecology, and one can see why: In extreme close-up, we see a wasp taking apart its arachnid prey. Taken in Ecuador by Roberto García-Roa, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Valencia in Spain, the photo is a reminder that for every creature you might find scary, there’s probably something even scarier on its trail.
A Zebrafish Fin
Not all of the images were so macro-scale, though. This one depicts the tail fin of a zebrafish, which was clipped two weeks earlier. In that time, the fin was replaced completely. Observations of this regenerative property have been recorded since at least the 18th century, and other animals, like the adorable axolotl, are also known to regrow body parts.
A Diseased Crustacean
This beautiful, tuft-covered crustacean is actually in a bad way. Living in the deepest lake on Earth—Lake Baikal in Russia—the animal was infected by a type of protozoan parasite called a ciliate. This crustacean got a bad case of it, with the infection sprouting on much of its body.
A Baboon on a Treadmill
Another image by García-Roa depicts a researcher observing how a baboon walks bipedally on a treadmill. Primates don’t always walk upright, but sometimes they do, and researchers believe the capacity could highlight how modern humans and our ancestors evolved to only move around on two feet. Research on fossils previously covered by Gizmodo has suggested that apes may have learned to be bipedal in the trees, not on the ground.
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A Snake Sneaks Up on a Frog
A Snake Sneaks Up on a Frog
Don’t panic. Don’t panic, you can almost hear this amphibian thinking. And at first sight, you might think that the frog is doomed. But the giant gladiator frog apparently escaped this encounter, according to photographer Dimitri Ouboter from the Institute for Neotropical Wildlife and Environmental Studies. Taken in Suriname, the image captures the moment just before the snake attacked.
This photo shows a whole platoon of soldier termites marching along an abandoned piece of rope, derelict for so long it’s turning a bit green. García-Roa said in a Biomed Central release that “these termites used meters of an abandoned rope to move across the Malaysian forest. Once humans disappear, nature recovers its space and uses what is needed to survive.” Indeed, we see similar phenomena in places like the Fukushima Exclusion Zone, where animals take up the spaces humans deemed no longer usable.