The wonders of nature: Camouflaged stick insects and fighting seals among winners of ecological photography competition
By LEON WATSON
Two bloodied seal battle it out for supremacy in front of 127 females, and a stick insect almost, but not quite, camouflaged.
These are just two of the stunning pictures illustrating some of the wonders of nature that were winners in the journal BMC Ecology's annual image competition.
The overall winner was the snap of the stick insect - or Timema poppensis - pictured against its host, the redwood tree (Sequoia sempervirens).
This brutal photograph of two male southern elephant seals (Mirounga leonina) fighting over a harem of 127 females was taken by Laltitia Kernal Eguen, a PhD student at Deakin University, Australia
Overall winner Moritz Muschick, from the University of Sheffield, depicts the startling camouflage of a Timema poppensis stick insect against its host tree, the redwood Sequoia sempervirens
The contrast of stunning green stripes and a pitch black background highlights the co-evolution of the two species - placing the viewer into the role of a predatory bird responsible for selecting this colourful mimicry.
The eye behind the winning image is Moritz Muschick from the University of Sheffield.
The runner up depicts a sub-alpine flower meadow in Colorado, captured by Benjamin Blonder from the University of Arizona.
The judges said: 'The emphasis here is not on survival, but on reproduction: the dull but functional photosynthetic green seems an almost insignificant background compared to the waving of riotously coloured floral genitalia.'
The Image Competition was open to everyone affiliated with a research institution. From fieldworkers to desk-based computational modellers, the entries needed to depict a specific ecological interaction, and could be submitted to one of five categories that reflect the editorial sections of the journal.
In addition to the winner and runner up, the judges, who include Bang Goes the Theory's Dr Yan Wong, chose five section winners, and an editor's pick.
Landscape Ecology and Ecosystems category winner Yulin Jia depicts a rice paddy in Yuanyang, China
Highly commended: Nesting gannets is a portrait of practical conservation in action
They said they struggled with their decisions as the standard of entries was so high, so in addition there were 19 'highly commended' images that excel in either sheer visual beauty, technical skill, or storytelling.
Dr Yan Wong said: 'Looking through the entries was a fascinating journey into a thriving jungle of ecological research - all the more enjoyable because many of the images submitted were visually stunning.
Ralph Aerts, a postdoctoral researcher from the University of Leuven (Belgium) and University of Utah (U.S.), took this in an area of high-shade tree cover in the Peruvian Andes
A bird on the jawbone of a farm animal. This picture was highly commended
This man serves as an awe-struck yardstick, emphasizing the sheer scale of the tree Ceiba pentandra
'This wasn't simply a search for an amazing picture, however. Just as important were the ecological processes depicted. Ideally, images should immediately hint at one or more ecological processes, yet leave some hidden depths which open up on closer inspection.'
Simon Harold, senior executive editor for the BMC Series of journals, added: 'Although natural history photography competitions are relatively commonplace in this era of digital photography, it struck me that professional ecologists might view the natural world differently to wildlife photographers or amateur naturalists.
The runner up was Benjamin Blonder, a PhD student from University of Arizona with this stunning snap
An iridescent green bee collecting bright yellow pollen from a purple Vellozia flower
A hoverfly in mid flight. This was another picture that was highly commended
'This competition was a means for these researchers to show off what they find so compelling about the research to which they have dedicated their working lives - from the world of lowly arctic bacteria, to the richly biodiverse tropics. And this wasn't only a photo competition.
'A dedicated category for the more theoretical side of this science also gave a nice opportunity for desk-bound ecologists to get creative and come up with some neat ways to visualise data in what is an inherently noisy natural world.'
The journal has also donated money to the Wytham Woods Appeal Fund, which is affiliated to Oxford University. Wytham Wood were bequeathed to the University in 1943, and are one of the most studied areas of woodland in the world.
A male broad-tailed hummingbird (Selasphorus platycercus), visits a scarlet gilia (Ipomopsis aggregata) flower at the Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory, in Colorado
Interactions between a crab and its biotic shelter
The Arabian babblers lining up together
The diaphanous tentacles of a squid give this image a soft, aesthetic quality which sits in edgy contrast to the killing which has just taken place
The efficient dispatching of a bee by a well hidden spider
Communication in bulldog ants (Myrmecia nigriscapa), Sydney, Australia
Saturday, March 23, 2013
The Wonders Of Nature
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