But it’s the photo of a “zombie” fungus-infected fly that has been crowned the overall winner in the nature journal’s second annual contest.
The striking scene captured by Spanish photographer Roberto García-Roa, from the University of Valencia, was of the fruiting spores of a parasitic fungus erupting from the body of a fly in the Tambopata National Reserve, in Peru.
The image “depicts a conquest that has been shaped by thousands of years of evolution,” García-Roa said in a news release.
“The spores of the so-called ‘zombie’ fungus have infiltrated the exoskeleton and mind of the fly and compelled it to migrate to a location that is more favourable for the fungus’s growth,” he said. He added that the fruiting bodies of the fungus will later be jettisoned to infect more victims.
Christy Anna Hipsley, a senior editorial board member at the journal, and one of the competition’s judges, likened the image to something observed in “science-fiction.”
“It illustrates both life and death simultaneously as the death of the fly gives life to the fungus,” she said.
Winners and runners-up were also selected in four categories: relationships in nature, research in action, biodiversity under threat and life close up.
Among the winning images was US photographer Brandon André Güell’s picture of gliding treefrog embryos developing within their eggs in the Osa Peninsula, in Costa Rica, during an explosive breeding event following a rainstorm.