Nikon's annual Small World photomicrography competition aims to recognize and showcase the stunning microscopic world that's invisible to the naked eye. Mesmerizing textures, patterns, and colors are revealed in the images taken with the microscopes, offering a peek into a world that we would otherwise miss.

For the 46th time, Nikon has hosted the ever-popular competition, revealing the hidden beauty of the tiny world. Last week, its 20 gorgeous winners were finally unveiled. The top prize this year was snatched by Daniel Castranova, who captured a photo of a juvenile zebrafish with fluorescently "tagged" skeleton, scales, and lymphatic system. The photo was stitched together using more than 350 individual images that were captured with a spinning disc confocal microscope. Scroll down below to see the rest of the winners of the 2020 competition, vote for the ones you liked the most, and tell us what you think in the comments down below!

More info: Nikon Small World

#1

Human hair

Human hair

12th place: Robert Vierthaler. Human hair.

Robert Vierthaler Report

Rabbit Carrot
Community Member
1 month ago

Thought this was a worm at first!

View More Replies...
View more comments

The winning shot of the zebrafish has a significant meaning in the science world, as it helped to make a groundbreaking discovery—zebrafish have lymphatic vessels inside their skull that were previously believed to exist only in mammals. "The image is beautiful, but also shows how powerful the zebrafish can be as a model for the development of lymphatic vessels," said Daniel Castranova, who captured the image. "Until now, we thought this type of lymphatic system only occurred in mammals. By studying them now, the scientific community can expedite a range of research and clinical innovations—everything from drug trials to cancer treatments. This is because fish are so much easier to raise and image than mammals."

#2

Tongue (radula) of a freshwater snail

Tongue (radula) of a freshwater snail

3rd place: Dr. Igor Siwanowicz. Tongue (radula) of a freshwater snail.

Dr. Igor Siwanowicz Report

kjorn
Community Member
1 month ago

who wakes up on day and says: i think i'll take a close picture of a snail tongue? :-)

View More Replies...
View more comments
#3

Connections between brain cells

Connections between brain cells

9th place: Jason Kirk, Quynh Nguyen. Connections between hippocampal neurons (brain cells).

Jason Kirk, Quynh Nguyen Report

Rabbit Carrot
Community Member
1 month ago

Looks like a galaxy filament.

View more comments
#4

Nylon stockings

Nylon stockings

16th place: Alexander Klepnev. Nylon stockings.

Alexander Klepnev Report

Janette Smith
Community Member
1 month ago

Looks like a drawing

View more comments
#5

Bogong moth

Bogong moth

5th place: Ahmad Fauzan. Bogong moth.

Ahmad Fauzan Report

Dana Grunwald
Community Member
1 month ago

So fluffy!

View more comments

The winner of the second place is Daniel Knop, who captured and stacked together images of the embryonic development of a clownfish on days 1, 3, 5, and 9. Dr. Igor Siwanowicz, a true veteran of the Small World competition, with a picture of the tongue (radula) of a freshwater snail, was awarded the third place.

#6

Crystals formed after heating an ethanol and water solution

Crystals formed after heating an ethanol and water solution

13th place: Justin Zoll. Crystals formed after heating an ethanol and water solution containing L-glutamine and beta-alanine.

Justin Zoll Report

Fabrice
Community Member
1 month ago

Modern painting

View more comments
#7

Embryonic development of a clownfish

Embryonic development of a clownfish

2nd place: Daniel Knop. Embryonic development of a clownfish (Amphiprion percula) on days 1, 3 (morning and evening), 5, and 9.

Daniel Knop Report

Fabrice
Community Member
1 month ago

Nemo ? Is that you ?

View More Replies...
View more comments
#8

Skeleton preparation of a short-tailed fruit bat embryo

Skeleton preparation of a short-tailed fruit bat embryo

20th place: Dr. Dorit Hockman, Dr. Vanessa Chong-Morrison. Skeleton preparation of a short-tailed fruit bat embryo (Carollia perspicillata).

Dr. Dorit Hockman, Dr. Vanessa Chong-Morrison Report

M Dream
Community Member
1 month ago

1st place!

View more comments
#9

Chameleon embryo

Chameleon embryo

8th place: Dr. Allan Carrillo-Baltodano, David Salamanca. Chameleon embryo (autofluorescence).

Dr. Allan Carrillo-Baltodano, David Salamanca Report

Clara Knaub
Community Member
1 month ago

Kinda cute, kinda creepy!

View more comments
#10

Microtubules (orange) inside a cell

Microtubules (orange) inside a cell

7th place: Jason Kirk. Microtubules (orange) inside a cell. Nucleus is shown in cyan.

Jason Kirk Report

Dynein
Community Member
1 month ago

For anyone who doesn't know... cells have a so-called cytoskeleton that provides structural stability and also functions as a microscopic highway for transporting stuff within the cell. For every type of cytoskeleton (there are three), there is group of molecules (i.e. proteins), that can "walk" along it. Type my username into the search bar on youtube if you want to see simulations of the funky walk of my namesake :)

View More Replies...
View more comments

Talking about the competition, Eric Flem, Communications Manager of Nikon Instruments, said: "For 46 years, the goal of the Nikon Small World competition has been to share microscopic imagery that visually blends art and science for the general public. As imaging techniques and technologies become more advanced, we are proud to showcase imagery that this blend of research, creativity, imaging technology, and expertise can bring to scientific discovery. This year’s first place winner is a stunning example."

#11

Multi-nucleate spores and hyphae of a soil fungus

Multi-nucleate spores and hyphae of a soil fungus

4th place: Dr. Vasileios Kokkoris, Dr. Franck Stefani, Dr. Nicolas Corradi. Multi-nucleate spores and hyphae of a soil fungus (arbuscular mycorrhizal fungus).

Dr. Vasileios Kokkoris, Dr. Franck Stefani, Dr. Nicolas Corradi Report

Teresa Groth
Community Member
1 month ago

Here again great decor for huge office buildings, why not!

View More Replies...
View more comments
#12

Zebrafish

Zebrafish

1st Place: Daniel Castranova, Dr Brant Weinstein & Bakary Samasa. Dorsal view of bones and scales (blue) and lymphatic vessels (orange) in a juvenile zebrafish.

Daniel Castranova, Dr Brant Weinstein & Bakary Samasa Report

M Dream
Community Member
1 month ago

beautiful, not for 1st place though

View more comments
#13

Silica cell wall of the marine diatom Arachnoidiscus sp.

Silica cell wall of the marine diatom Arachnoidiscus sp.

19th place: Dr. Jan Michels. Silica cell wall of the marine diatom Arachnoidiscus sp.

Dr. Jan Michels Report

Dynein
Community Member
1 month ago

Silica is basically glass (only difference is the arrangement of the molecules) which diatoms use for structural stability in their cell walls - they are beautiful "glass algae" that come in a stunning amount of intricate geometric shapes!

View more comments
See Also on Bored Panda
#14

Red algae

Red algae

11th place: Dr. Tagide deCarvalho. Red algae.

Dr. Tagide deCarvalho Report

Purple light
Community Member
1 month ago

Skeleton hands

View more comments
#15

Hebe plant anther with pollen

Hebe plant anther with pollen

6th place: Dr. Robert Markus, Zsuzsa Markus. Hebe plant anther with pollen.

Dr. Robert Markus, Zsuzsa Markus Report

Teresa Groth
Community Member
1 month ago

Gorgeous Art Deco!

View more comments
#16

Leaf roller weevil

Leaf roller weevil

14th place: Özgür Kerem Bulur. Leaf roller weevil (Byctiscus betulae) lateral view.

Özgür Kerem Bulur Report

Marilyn Holt
Community Member
1 month ago

yoikes!

#17

Water boatman

Water boatman

17th place: Anne Algar. Ventral view of an immature water boatman.

Anne Algar Report

Sperenity
Community Member
1 month ago

"No! No! I don't want that!" - Immature Water Boatman

View more comments
#18

Atlas moth wing

Atlas moth wing

18th place: Chris Perani. Atlas moth wing.

Chris Perani Report

#19

Daphnia magna (Phyllopoda)

Daphnia magna (Phyllopoda)

10th place: Ahmad Fauzan. Daphnia magna (Phyllopoda).

Ahmad Fauzan Report

Laura Thomas
Community Member
1 month ago

Daphnia magna is a small planktonic crustacean (adult length 1.5–5.0 mm) that belongs to the subclass Phyllopoda. It inhabits a variety of freshwater environments, ranging from acidic swamps to rivers made of snow runoff, and is broadly distributed throughout the Northern Hemisphere and South Africa.

View more comments
#20

Chain of daughter individuals from annelid species Chaetogaster diaphanus

Chain of daughter individuals from annelid species Chaetogaster diaphanus

15th place: Dr. Eduardo Zattara, Dr. Alexa Bely. Chain of daughter individuals from the asexually reproducing annelid species Chaetogaster diaphanus.

Dr. Eduardo Zattara, Dr. Alexa Bely Report

BeazleBug
Community Member
1 month ago

For those that don't know...this photo shows a worm that reproduces by developing a full set of organs in a posterior section, which then breaks off and becomes a fully developed, separate critter. There are actually three organisms in this photo.

View more comments
See Also on Bored Panda