An image of a four-day-old zebrafish by Dr. Oscar Ruiz of the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center won top honors today at the annual Nikon Small World competition. The contest honors the beauty and technical skill shown in the tiniest parts of our world found through microphotography. Here are the top twenty winning photographs.
Dr. Oscar Ruiz
The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, Texas, USA
Four-day-old zebrafish embryo
Oscar Ruiz, Ph.D., brings the world face-to-face with his research on facial development and cellular morphogenesis with his winning image of a four-day-old zebrafish embryo. Dr. Ruiz uses the zebrafish to study genetic mutations that lead to facial abnormalities such as cleft lip and palate in humans in the lab of Dr. George Eisenhoffer at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas.
Using time-lapse images of the developing Zebrafish face as a guide, Dr. Ruiz is creating an atlas of the development of the zebrafish face. His group is tracking physical landmarks throughout development to create a series of metrics that can be used to accurately describe the cellular movements that occur during the normal development of the face. These metrics can then be used to identify abnormalities in the development of Zebrafish harboring specific genetic mutations identified in human patients. He hopes that these findings will help provide insight into the cellular and molecular mechanisms that are altered in patients with facial deformities.
“Until now, these facial abnormalities had not been extensively studied in a live context where you can see what’s happening during development in real-time," said Dr. Ruiz. Using a live-imaging approach means we can better understand and pinpoint exactly how and why these developmental abnormalities occur. The first step is knowing how it happens. Then we can figure out how to fix it.”
Douglas L. Moore
University of Wisconsin - Stevens Point
Museum of Natural History, Stevens Point, Wisconsin, USA
Polished slab of Teepee Canyon agate
Douglas Moore entered his first Nikon Small World competition over 20 years ago, in 1993. He is a retired photographer and adjunct faculty member at the University of Wisconsin Stevens Point, and currently holds the position of Emeritus Curator at the Museum of Natural History at the University.
This vibrant specimen captured by Moore is a polished slab of Teepee Canyon Agate - a 273-million-year-old marine sedimentary agate in the Black Hills of western South Dakota. Teepee Canyon Agate is striking both macroscopically and microscopically, with vibrant colors and wide bands alternating between chalcedony fibers and iron oxide particles boldly displayed in this specimen.
As an agate collector and former biologist, Moore is fascinated by these "so called ‘sedimentary agates’ or ‘ limestone agates.’ They are different structurally from volcanic agates and sometimes contain fossils or are replacements of fossil structures such as coral heads or sponges. “The genesis of these agates is poorly understood. What causes the formation of alternating bands is thought to be an oscillating crystallization sequence," says Moore. "That such beauty and detail could be locked in a 273-million-year-old rock amazes me."
University of Oxford, Nuffield Department of Clinical Neurosciences, Oxford, United Kingdom
Culture of neurons (stained green) derived from human skin cells, and Schwann cells, a second type of brain cell (stained red)
Rebecca Nutbrown is a PhD student at the University of Oxford, in the Nuffield Department of Clinical Neurosciences. This is her first time entering Nikon Small World, and this is one of the first microscopic images she has ever taken. She is intrigued by the opportunity to capture images at a cellular level, in order to advance the understanding of the brain.
The image shows a co-culture of different brain cell types, namely neurons (axons stained green) derived from human skin cells (induced pluripotent stem cells) and rodent primary Schwann cells (myelin sheath stained red). The cell bodies are stained blue. Nutbrown spent many hours using multiple advanced technologies to develop and showcase the intricate network of the brain.
Nutbrown submitted this image with a purpose, “to highlight the beauty and complexity of the cellular network in our brains.” She believes the cultures captured in this image represent the first steps in developing revolutionary advancements in personalized medicine and neuroscience. A novice to microphotography, Nutbrown states, “I am fascinated by how the microscope and fluorescence can reveal such complex beauty, completely missed by the naked eye.”
Chiang Mai, Thailand
Dr. Igor Siwanowicz
Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI), Janelia Research Campus, Ashburn, Virginia, USA
Front foot (tarsus) of a male diving beetle
Marek Mis Photography, Suwalki, Podlaskie, Poland
Air bubbles formed from melted ascorbic acid crystals
Dr. David Maitland
Feltwell, United Kingdom
Leaves of Selaginella (lesser club moss)
Differential Interference Contrast
Monoson Yahud, Israel
Fiber Optic Illumination
Vin Kitayama and Sanae Kitayama
Vinsanchi Art Museum Azumino, Azumino, Nagano, Japan
Espresso coffee crystals
Rogelio Moreno Gill
Frontonia (showing ingested food, cilia, mouth and trichocysts)
Differential Interference Contrast
Scales of a butterfly wing underside (Vanessa atalanta)
Dr. Dylan Burnette
Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, Nashville, Tennessee, USA
Human HeLa cell undergoing cell division (cytokinesis). DNA (yellow), myosin II (blue) and actin filaments (red)
South Beloit, Illinois, USA
Poison fangs of a centipede (Litius erythrocephalus)
Fiber Optic Illumination/Image Stacking
Dr. Keunyoung Kim
University of California, San Diego, National Center for Microscopy and Imaging Research (NCMIR), La Jolla, California, USA
Mouse retinal ganglion cells
Head section of an orange ladybird (Halyzia sedecimguttata)
Reflected Light/Focus Stacking
Diatom Shop, Palazzo Pignano, Italy
65 fossil Radiolarians (zooplankton) carefully arranged by hand in Victorian style
University of Puerto Rico, Mayaguez Campus, Biology Department, Mayaguez, Puerto Rico
Slime mold (Mixomicete)
Image Stacking/Reflected Light
Department of Agriculture and Food, Western Australia, Biosecurity and Regulation - Pest Diagnostics, South Perth, Western Australia, Australia
Parts of wing-cover (elytron), abdominal segments and hind leg of a broad-shouldered leaf beetle (Oreina cacaliae)
Stereomicroscopy, Image Stacking
Dr. Gist F. Croft, Lauren Pietilla, Stephanie Tse, Dr. Szilvia Galgoczi, Maria Fenner, Dr. Ali H. Brivanlou
Rockefeller University, Brivanlou Laboratory, New York, New York, USA
Human neural rosette primordial brain cells, differentiated from embryonic stem cells
Haverfordwest, Pembrokeshire, United Kingdom
See honorable mentions and more at Nikon Small World and at the Small World Instagram feed. You can still vote for your favorite image in the Popular Vote category until October 25th. The Nikon Small World in Motion competition, which honors microphotography in video form, will announce this year's winners on December 14th.