When you're looking at the world through a microscope, appearances can be deceptive. Vegetables look like minerals, and tiny creatures look like alien invaders. Just check out the incredibly gorgeous winners of this year's Nikon Small World microphotography competition.

Here are just a few of our favorites from among this year's winners, which illuminate the amazing beauty at microscopic sizes, and help us understand the tiny systems that keep our world functioning. Check out the rest over at the link. [Nikon Small World via Wired]

Duane Harland, Ctenocephalides canis (flea) (20X)

Jonas King, Anopheles gambiae (mosquito) heart (100X) (First place winner)

Cameron Johnson,
Wistar rat retina outlining the retinal vessel network and associated communication channels (100X)

Laurence Dubreil, Cryosection of rat skeletal muscle (20X)

Robert Berdan, Trout alevin (larva) (10X)

Christian Gautier, Porpita porpita (blue button) tentacle (50X)

Hideo Otsuna, 5-day old zebrafish head (20X)

Christian Gautier, Toad ova injected, mounted in lacto-phenol (50X)

Gregory Rouse, Juvenile bivalve mollusc, Lima sp. (10X)

James Nicholson, Orange Fungia (mushroom coral), live specimen (166X)

Rachel Berry, E16.5 mouse scan utilizing autofluorescence on 3 wavelengths showing mouse vasculature (1.25X)

Fabrice Parais, Trichoptera Hydropsyche angustipennis (caddisfly) larva, posterior claws (30X)

Charles Krebs, Ichneumon wasp compound eye and antenna base (40X)

J. Claire Hoving, Anisakis pegreffi (parasitic worm) (40X)

Slobodan Beronja, Hair follicles in a newborn mouse (cyan) transduced with a lentivirus (magenta) (600X)

Yongli Shan, Endothelial cell attached to synthetic microfibers, stained with microtubules, F-actin and nuclei (2500X)

Stephen Nagy, M.D., Craspedodiscus coscinodiscus Ehrenberg (extinct marine diatom) (1440X)

Jim Wetzel, Oryzias latipes (Japanese medaka) embryo, live mount (150X)

Paul D. Andrews, Telophase HeLa (cancer) cells expressing Aurora B-EGFP (green) (100X)

Edwin Lee, Senecio vulgaris (common groundsel) seed with ectomycorrhizal hyphae of a soil fungus (100X)

Stefanie Eisenbach, 72 hour chick embryo, dissected from the yolk (40X)

Christian Gautier, Tortula papillosa (moss) (20X)

Juan Carlos Izpisúa, Mouse embryo stem cells surrounded by trophectoderm cells (63X)

Honorio Cocera-La Parra, Cacoxenite (mineral) (18X)