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Single-celled death scene wins Nikon photomicrography prize

Tiny snuff film wins big competition

Nikon Small World In Motion

It's a microorganism eat microorganism world out there, as proved by this year's Nikon Small World In Motion competition. The winning footage for the 2015 prize celebrating photomicrography shows a tiny death scene, with a ciliate predator (a type of single-celled organism commonly found in water) attacking and consuming its prey, a smaller ciliate species. The real-time footage was captured by Wim van Egmond of the Micropolitan Museum in The Netherlands, who scooped the tiny creatures out of a pond in his backyard and was lucky enough to see the kill.

"A miniature underwater jungle."

"Wildlife is so close to us, yet most of us never look close enough to see it," van Egmond said in a press statement. "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."

Egmond has previously won first place in the Nikon Small World in Motion's twin competition dedicated to still images, but says that capturing microscopic creatures in video footage is important to get a sense of their existence as living organisms. "You should see them alive and moving," he says. His footage certainly shows that, although the most obvious movements are the struggles of the prey Campanella ciliate, which seems to be waving its hair-like cilia in desperation as it is engulfed by the larger Trachelius ciliate.

Second place in this year's competition went to Danielle Parsons' footage of the contents of a termite's gut, showing the organisms that help the insects digest wood, while third place was won by Gonzalo Avila's video of parasitoid wasp larva ripping out its host. Death and digestion, it seems, are big themes in the microscopic world.