Rachel Carson wrote in a book published in 1962: “Nothing exists in nature alone.” Silent springShe warned that pesticides absorbed by the soil would flow into streams, rivers and reservoirs without being noticed, poisoning creatures along the way. Carson ignited the modern environmental movement by showing that the management of the living planet begins with simple attention. If people can observe this interconnected life up close, her task may be much easier.
Many things have changed since then. Luminous tardigrade muscles, SARS-CoV-2 infection in bat brain cells, thrilling flight in the nervous system of 7-day-old chicken embryos-these originally invisible small worlds are full of energy and are undeniably alive . Now in the 11th year, Nikon’s “Dynamic Small World” competition has made these phenomena and more visible-these phenomena are collected from microscopes around the world.
First place this year, Fabian J. Weston, amateur microscope expert from Pennant Hill, Australia, Captures the symbiotic relationship between termites and the single-celled microorganisms found in their bodies. In the insect’s gut, these microorganisms, called protists, help them digest cellulose-the main component of plant cell walls-they eat in and recycle carbon back to the soil.
“There is a major gap in our understanding of these termite symbionts and how this unique evolutionary relationship develops with their host, so it is very worth exploring and showing,” Weston told the competition organizers. He hopes that the final result will make more people aware of the role that all protists play in every ecosystem on the planet.
To shoot the video, Weston used a research microscope and polarized light from the 1970s. The final result requires months of trial and error and small changes in the pH, chemical composition and temperature of the termite environment to keep the insects and the protists in their bodies alive.
Stephanie Hachey and Christopher Hughes, molecular biologists at the University of California, Irvine, took second place. They shot a time-lapse video of the formation and metastasis of human micro-tumors that have been engineered. Images were taken every 15 minutes for 10 consecutive days.
The 2021 winners and honorary nominees explored extremely different small corners of the universe that have been magnified 120 times. In every case, the hum that you see under the surface cannot be ignored.