The science journal BMC Ecology and Evolution published the winners of its annual photography competition featuring images captured by researchers in the field. "The competition attracted entries from ecologists and evolutionary biologists from around the world eager to use their creativity to highlight the wonder of nature, the challenges facing our planet and their research," the editors explain. The beautiful shot above took the grand prize. More wonders below.
The overall winner captures something like out of science fiction—the fruiting body of a parasitic fungus erupting from the body of a fly. Roberto García-Roa, an evolutionary biologist and conservation photographer affiliated with the University of Valencia (Spain) and Lund University (Sweden), captured this unsettling image in the Peruvian jungle of Tambopata. Roberto explains that "spores of the so-called 'Zombie' fungus (e.g. genera Ophiocordyceps) infect arthropods by infiltrating their exoskeleton and minds. As a result, parasitized hosts are compelled to migrate to a more favourable location for the fungus's growth. Here, they await death, at which point the fungus feeds on its host to produce fruiting bodies full of spores that will be jettisoned to infect more victims—a conquest shaped by thousands of years of evolution." Senior Editorial Board Member Christy Anna Hipsley comments that this image depicting a parasite-host interaction "has a depth and composition that conveys life and death simultaneously—an affair that transcends time, space, and even species. The death of the fly gives life to the fungus"
(via Daily Grail)
* As per the publication, "All images published in this Editorial are released under a Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY) to ensure credit with proper attribution."