Nikon announced the winners of their "Small World" photomicrograph competition, and the results are stunning. Many showcase the beauty of biology.
The first prize photo, taken by Vanderbilt University graduate student Jonas King, shows a close up of a mosquito's heart with different structures labeled with fluorescent dye:
The green dye binds with muscle cells and shows the underlying musculature. The blue dye binds with cellular DNA and shows the presence of all the mosquito’s cells. The point of view of the image is top down. The mosquito’s body lies horizontally with its head to the left. The heart is the narrow tube that runs horizontally across the middle of the picture. The muscles that wind around the heart show up clearly in green. The triangular-shaped bundles perpendicular to the heart are called alary muscles and they hold the heart up against the mosquito’s back. Each of these bundles is centered on one of the heart valves, which do not show up clearly. The mosquito’s body consists of a series of segments and the broad strips of muscle that run parallel to the heart are intersegmental muscles that hold the segments together. The vertical muscles at the top and bottom of the image wrap around the mosquito’s body and are called intrasegmental muscles.
The resulting photo turns that complicated bit of anatomy into a lovely piece of abstract art. Click on the thumbnail to see the full size photo.
Second prize went to University of Utah scientist Hideo Otsuna, for his photo of a 5-day-old zebrafish head. It uses fluorescent dyes to label different parts of the fish's nervous system. The image appears to look down on the top of the head, with the front of the head at the top of the photo. The prominent blue bulges on each side are the eyes. Zebrafish are often used to study how the development of the brain and nervous system because they grow rapidly and are mostly transparent, which means internal structures can be relatively easily observed in intact animals. You can see in this photo what a 60-hour-old zebrafish looks like under normal light.
I also quite like the 6th place photo, which shows a 40x magnified view of living red seaweed, taken by John Huisman of Murdoch University. It reminds me of the sort crackling pattern you might see on the floor of a dry lake bed in the desert. Just beautiful.