We've all seen totally gorgeous microscopy photos before — but there's still something startling about seeing an arresting picture of a beautiful lattice, only to realize it's a set of mutated cells. Or an insect slowly murdering another insect. Or a horrible parasite, feeding off its host. Part of the thrill of microscopic photos is seeing the loveliness in nature's many killers and things we might consider abominations.

So it's especially exciting to look upon some of the winners and runners up in this year's Olympus BioScapes contest. Above is Drosophila ovaries and uterus, photographed by Gunnar Newquist at the University of Nevada. Check out more of our favorites in this gallery, and see the rest at the link. [Olympus BioScapes via Bellevue Reporter]

First Prize: Rotifer Floscularia ringens feeding. Its rapidly beating cilia (hair-like structures) bring water containing food to the rotifer
Technique: Differential interference contrast microscopy
Photographer: Charles Krebs

James H. Nicholson
Fort Johnson Marine Resources Center
Charleston, South Carolina, USA
Specimen: Live coral Goniastrea sp., known as green brain coral. One full polyp in the center is shown with four surrounding polyps.
Walled corallites are purple.
Technique: Phase contrast illumination

Jan Schmoranzer
Freie University Berlin, Institute for Chemistry and Biochemistry
Berlin, Germany
Specimen: Neuronal culture
Technique: Fluorescence, 6 images stitched at 40x magnification

Dr. Andreas Schmidt-Rhaesa
Zoological Museum, University Hamburg
University of Hamburg, Germany
Specimen: Hymenolepis microstoma, a tapeworm parasite, showing anterior end. Phalloidin staining shows the suckers, pharynx and part of the body-wall musculature.
Technique: Confocal microscopy

Dr. Janet Rollins
College of Mount Saint Vincent
Bronx, New York, USA
Specimen: Drosophila sperm
Technique: Confocal microscopy

Lauren Piedmont
Harvard Medical School
Boston, Massachusetts, USA
Specimen: Pine Stem
Technique: Fluorescence

Nathan Pallace
Fountain Hills, Arizona, USA
Specimen: Fluorescent image of Tilia tree

James H. Nicholson
NOAA/NOS/NCCOS, Fort Johnson Marine Resources Center
Charleston, South Carolina, USA
Specimen: Underwater image of live coral Montastraea annularis. Note polyp tissue (green) around the mouth and base of the tentacles and zooxanthellae (red fluorescence from chlorophyll) in the tissue between polyps. Tentacles also are visible.

Dr. Denise Montell
Johns Hopkins University, Department of Biological Chemistry Center for Cell Dynamics
Baltimore, Maryland, USA
Specimen: Drosophila ovary
Technique: Confocal microscopy

Dr. Jan Michels
Institute of Zoology
Christian-Albrechts-Universität zu Kiel
Kiel, Germany
Specimen: Pretarsus of the third leg of a female drone fly (Eristalis tenax), ventral view
Technique: Confocal, autofluorescence, 20x

Madelyn May
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
Troy, New York, USA
Specimen: Rat cerebral cortex with astrocytes' (yellow) endfeet wrapping around blood vessels (red). Cell nuclei are cyan.
Technique: Confocal microscopy, spectral imaging with 50 Z-slices

Dr. Dalibor Matýsek
Mining University - Technical University of Ostrava
Ostrava, Czech Republic
Specimen: Sporangium of the slime mold Physarum leucophaeum
Technique: Fluorescence

Dr. Dalibor Matýsek
Mining University - Technical University of Ostrava
Ostrava, Czech Republic
Specimen: Young sporangia of slime mold Arcyria stipata
Technique: Fluorescence

Peter Kinchington
Mooroolbark, Australia
Specimen: European wasp head
Technique: Brightfield, 200 stacked images

Charles Krebs
Issaquah, Washington, USA
Specimen: Mosquito wing. The iridescent colors, a natural phenomenon resulting from the wing structure itself,
are similar to the colors seen in oil films or soap bubbles.
Technique: Darkfield illumination

Dr. Alexis J. Lomakin
Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Carnegie Institution of Washington
Baltimore, Maryland, USA
Specimen: Xenopus melanophore, showing microtubules, microtubule plus-ends and nucleus
Technique: Fluorescence, 60x

Dr. Rita Fior
Institute of Molecular Medicine
Lisbon, Portugal
Specimen: Eyes and optic tectum of five-day-old zebrafish larva that has a mutation causing retinal axons to project into the olfactory lobe
Technique: Confocal, 125-slice Z stack, 20x magnification

Dr. Fernan Federici
Department of Plant Sciences
University of Cambridge, United Kingdom
Specimen: Corn tissue
Technique: Confocal, 40x objective

Geir Drange
Asker, Norway
Specimen: Two damsel bugs (Nabis sp.) seemingly feeding on an aphid. Background is dried leaf of Norway maple (Acer platanoides). Technique: Focus stack of 120 images

John Dolan
Station Zoologique B.P. 28
Villefranche-sur-Mer, France
Specimen: Marine plankton Petalotricha ampulla with cilia extended
Technique: Differential interference contrast microscopy

Dr. Sandra Dieni
Institute of Anatomy and Cell Biology
Albert-Ludwigs University
Freiburg, Germany
Specimen: Immature mouse hippocampus, a region of the brain involved in learning and memory.
Technique: Fluorescent

Mike Crutchley
Pembrokeshire, Wales, United Kingdom
Specimen: Hydroid collected from kelp sample
Technique: Epi-illumination, image stack

Dr. Douglas Clark
San Francisco, California, USA
Specimen: Eupholus weevil, dried thorax scales, stack of 80 images
Technique: Darkfield, 10x magnification

Dr. Frank Abernathy
Jamestown, Ohio, USA
Specimen: Serum arrested Mouse L-1210 cells engaged in spontaneous apoptosis (programmed cell death)
after nutrient depletion and acid hydrolysis
Technique: Phase contrast microscopy, 400x, image scanned and enlarged

Dr. Robert Berdan
Calgary, Alberta, Canada
Specimen: Trout alevin (alevin is the second of four stages in the life cycle of a trout, when eggs hatch and the tiny fish begin to emerge)
Technique: Stereomicroscopy, 10x