See the Microscopic World in Motion Through These Winning Videos

See the Microscopic World in Motion Through These Winning Videos

For 12 years, camera and microscope manufacturer Nikon has hosted an annual contest of the best videos showing life and nature on a microscopic scale. On Tuesday, it presented the latest winners of the Nikon Small World in Motion Video Competition, along with many more dazzling entries.

The contest is an offshoot of Nikon’s Small World Competition, with an emphasis on movies or digital time-lapsed photography taken through a microscope. A panel of scientists and journalists specializing in photo and video judged the entries, and the top prize went to a time-lapsed video of a zebrafish embryo going through the stages of development over an eight-hour period, with fluorescent markers used to display the winding journey that different types of cells take to eventually become fully functioning organs and tissues. Other videos this year show how a sea anemone’s cells allow it to sting animals that gets too close, a cancer cell with more DNA than it bargained for, and a hydra in the middle of its meal.

Here are the top five winners along with some honorable mentions, with videos courtesy of Nikon Small World. A full list of the top 30 videos can be seen here.

A Growing Zebrafish

The winning video shows how neural crest cells (in green) migrate through a zebrafish embryo during development. In humans and other vertebrates, these progenitor cells will diversify into a wide variety of cells and structures, including parts of the heart and brain. Zebrafish are commonly used in a lab as a model organism, in large part because their transparent embryos allow scientists to see the early stages of life so clearly.

Monkey Cells Up Close

The second place winner, this video shows a 12-hour time-lapse of cultured monkey cells, with the blue indicating DNA and the orange the cell’s plasma membrane. To keep the cells alive, scientist Christophe Leterrie had to fine-tune the temperature and humidity of the environment, and he also minimized the amount of phototoxicity that could have come from the laser used to illuminate the cells.

The Machinery Behind a Sea Anemone’s Sting

The third place winner shows some of the complex cellular process behind a sea anemone’s ability to sting, which these animals use both as a defence mechanism and a hunting tool. When a creature ventures into their reach, specialised cells called nematocysts launch from their tentacles, both poisoning the hapless animal and latching into their skin like a harpoon, allowing the anemone to pull its prey closer for digestion.

The Death of Cancer

The fourth place winner, by Dylan Burnette, shows melanoma tumour cells in their death throes. Though skin cancer is the most common type to occur in humans, melanoma only accounts about 1% of cases. However, melanoma is especially deadly, accounting for a majority of skin cancer-related deaths. And it’s estimated that over 7,600 Americans will die from it this year.

An Eerie Display

The unsettling fifth place winner comes from researchers Ignasi Vélez-Ceron, Jordi Ignés, and Francesc Sagués at the University of Barcelona’s Department of Materials Science and Physical Chemistry. It shows a photosensitive and active liquid crystal material confined into a tight space that’s known as an annular channel.

An Unusual Cancer Cell

Cancer cells are already the twisted version of our normal cells, since they’re cells that won’t stop growing and dividing as instructed. Often, these cells will even have two nuclei at once, containing the package of genetic material that governs its function. But it’s still strange to see a cancer cell with three nuclei, as captured in this honorable mention selection.

A Hungry Hydra

Real life hydras are much smaller than the mythological version. But up close, these freshwater creatures certainly look just as imposing. In this honorable mention, we can see a hydra gulping down a water flea (Daphnia pulex) over an eight-hour time lapse.

The Birth of a Pest

Mosquitos are the deadliest animals in the world to humans, since they spread diseases like malaria. One of this year’s honorable mentions shows footage captured underwater of larvae from a species of Culex mosquito hatching from an egg raft.

A Trippy Tardigrade

No visual contest of the very tiny would be complete without an appearance from the animal known as the tardigrade, one of the world’s most durable survivors. In this honorable mention, Canadian microbiologist Chloé Savard used polarised light to capture a Milnesium tardigrade hanging out with the freshwater microalgae Euglena viridisiii, creating a fun holographic effect.

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