Ever wonder what it looks like when algae have sex? Now you'll find out in this winning video from the Olympus BioScapes Digital Imaging Contest. More winning entries in our gallery, which includes an amoeba vs. yeast cell smackdown.

Every year, the Olympus BioScapes Digital Imaging Contest invites imaging experts and amateurs to submit their best examples of microscopy - in still and video form. The results, as you can see, are incredible.

The top prize is $5,000 worth of Olympus imaging equipment. In addition, twenty-two of the 2009 winning and Honorable Mention images will also be displayed in a winners' tour that will travel to San Diego, California, New York City; suburban Washington DC; Philadelphia, Baltimore, and other cities. Additional exhibits of BioScapes images will simultaneously be touring cities across the U.S. and Canada throughout 2009-10.


You can see more winners and honorable mentions on the BioScapes page.

Sexual Attraction in Spyrogyra. This classic microscopic subject illustrates sex in lower organisms and shows the power of sexual attraction even in simple algae. One cell becomes quite amoeboid as it squeezes through the narrow fertilization tube that the partner cells have just built between them. The movie was shot in time-lapse over 2 hours. By Jeremy Pickett-Heaps, University of Melbourne, Australia. Third Prize.


Water flea Daphnia atkinsoni. This specimen has a "crown of thorns," a defensive trait induced in offspring only when the parents sense chemical cues released by one of their main predators, the tadpole shrimp Triops cancriformis. The water flea's exoskeleton (exterior structure, green) and subcellular details within the organism (nuclei - tiny blue dots) are both visible. By Dr. Jan Michels, Department of Functional Morphology and Biomechanics, Institute of Zoology, Christian Albrecht
University of Kiel, Germany. First Prize.

Nucleus of a plant cell showing synaptonemal complex, a ladder-like protein structure that forms between pairing chromosomes during meiosis (the cell division required for reproduction). This may be the first-ever high-resolution 3D image of this complex ever captured with light microscopy. The two parallel axes of this complex, which run the length of each chromosome, are seen as two threads spaced 100-200 nm apart and twisting around each other in a helix. By Chung-Ju Rachel Wang, Department of Molecular and Cell Biology, University of California, Berkeley, USA. 2nd Prize.

Fresh water algae Haematococcus pluvialis, 100x. Phase contrast microscopy. By Charles Krebs, Issaquah, WA, USA. Fourth Prize.

Unicellular alga Penium, treated with the microtubule poison oryzalin. By David Domozych, Department of Biology, Skidmore College, Saratoga Springs, NY, USA. Fifth Prize.
Single-cell smackdown! Amoeba trying to engulf a yeast cell by Margaret Clarke, Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation, Oklahoma City, OK, USA. Honorable Mention.
CAR fish fibroblast. By Maria Nemethova, Institute of Molecular Biotechnology of the Austrian Academy of Sciences, Vienna, Austria. Honorable Mention.
Adipose tissue in living animals. Cellular dynamics and structures including erythorycytes, platelets, leukocytes, and endothelial cells are visualized through in vivo imaging. Satoshi Nishimura, Tokyo, Japan. Honorable Mention.
Desmid (green alga) dividing. Desmids are symmetrical cells composed of two identical halves or "semi-cells" that have a complex, highly ornamented and species-specific shape. Every time the cell divides, it is bisected between the two semi-cells. The two daughter cells now have to generate a new, complementary semi-cell to restore the cell's normal symmetry. This morphogenesis takes about 2 hrs. By Jeremy Pickett-Heaps, University of Melbourne, Australia. Honorable Mention.
Mouse cortical neurons (nerve cells in the brain). Each second in the movie replays one hour in real time; total time is 5 days. Scientists are looking at the trajectories of the elongating axons. Despite the disorganized culture environment, note the straight trajectory of axon growth cones. This type of experiment is extremely difficult; researchers spent two years optimizing the biology and imaging conditions to make this long-term imaging possible. By Neville Sanjana, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Cambridge, MA, USA. Honorable Mention.

Epidermal layer cells of Lotus japonicus dry seed. By Mayumi Wakazaki and Kiminori Toyooka, RIKEN Plant Science Center, Yokohama, Japan. Honorable Mention.

Drosophila (fruitfly) ovarioles. Fluorescence imaging. By Maria Paula Zappia, IIB-INTECH UNSAM-CONICET, Buenos Aires, Argentina. Honorable Mention.

Apicoplast. Confocal imaging. By Bernd Zobiak, University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf, Hamburg, Germany. Honorable Mention.

Genetically-identified retinal ganglion cells. This study shows that it is possible to target genetically-identified neurons, a non- random approach to studying cell types. By Tim Viney, Friedrich Miescher Institute, Basel, Switzerland. Honorable Mention.
Fungia feeding. Fungia are large individual corals that don't form colonies or reefs. Their large and very expandable mouths allow them to eat large pieces of food compared to most corals. The movie was captured with epifluorescence, using the Fungia's own natural auto-fluorescence stimulated by UV, blue and green excitation light. James Nicholson, Coral Culture & Collaborative Research Facility, NOAA NOS NCCOS Center for Coastal Environmental Health & Biomolecular Research, Fort Johnson Marine Lab, Charleston, SC, USA. Honorable Mention.