Planet Earth

Microorganism Devours Its Prey in Award-Winning Video

D-briefBy Carl EngelkingDec 9, 2015 5:29 PM

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A microscopic ambush took home the top prize in Nikon's 2015 Small World in Motion Competition. (Credit: Screenshot from NikonMicroscopes/YouTube) It’s a ciliate-eat-ciliate world out there. As you read this, protozoans in pools of water everywhere are engaged in a perpetual battle for survival. We’ve been spared images from the battlefield, due to the microscopic nature of the struggle. But thanks to award-winning camera work, the plight of the microorganism is now abundantly clear. Wim van Egmond of the Micropolitan Museum in the Netherlands took home the top prize in Nikon’s 2015 Small World in Motion Competition for his gritty video of a Trachelius ciliate feasting on a Campanella ciliate in a scoop of water taken from a pond in his backyard. He happened to have his camera handy moments before the attack.

Ciliates are considered the most evolved and complex of protozoans, and there are over 8,000 different ciliate species. Ciliates, as the name implies, develop tiny, hairlike organelles called cilia that they use to get around. In van Egmond’s video, you can see the Trachelius ciliate use a proboscis to nab its prey and swallow it whole. “A pool in your garden is actually a miniature underwater jungle teeming with life. If you want to see the world, your backyard is a great place to start,” van Egmond said in a news release.

The Best of the Rest

Although van Egmond took home the top prize, the rest of the entries are certainly worthy of a look. Danielle Parsons of Wonder Science TV in the United States took home second place with her up-close footage inside a termite’s guts, including the microorganisms that help it digest its woody diet.

Third-place honors went to Gonazalo Avila, a PhD candidate from The University of Auckland, who filmed a parasitoid wasp larva emerging from its host, a gum-leaf skeletoniser larva. After the wasp larva emerges, it immediately gets to work spinning its cocoon. The entire process can take several hours, but Avila condensed the event to a few minutes.

And if you haven’t had your fill of these cool videos by now, check out this compilation of all the winners and honorable mentions.

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