BMC Ecology and Evolution image competition 2022 has published the results of its annual contest. And the winner is like a scene from a science fiction movie. It shows a “zombie fungus” growing from the body of a dead fly, and it’s a reminder of how impressive nature is, even on its tiniest scale.
The overall winner is Roberto García-Roa, an evolutionary biologist and conservation photographer affiliated with the University of Valencia (Spain) and Lund University (Sweden). Only looking at his photo makes you stare in awe and at the same time be terrified (at least that’s how I felt). But wait until you see the background, it’s even wilder.
Roberto captured the winning photo in the Peruvian jungle of Tambopata. “The spores of the so-called ‘Zombie’ fungus (e.g. genera Ophiocordyceps) infect arthropods by infiltrating their exoskeleton and minds,” the photographer explains.
“As a result, parasitized hosts are compelled to migrate to a more favorable 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.”
Other than the overall winner, the judges chose the best image and the runner-up from each of the four categories:
- Relationships in Nature
- Biodiversity under Threat
- Life Close Up
- Research in Action
The jury considered the scientific story behind the photos in addition to their artistic quality. BMC Ecology and Evolution’s Senior Editorial Board Member, Christy Anna Hipsley, commented on the winning image saying that it 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.”
Like every year, the contest attracted entries from ecologists and evolutionary biologists from around the world. The condition for submitting your work is that you’re affiliated with a research institution. You can find more information on BMC Ecology and Evolution’s website, and take a look at this year’s category winners and runner-ups below.