Photo of Zombie Fungus Infecting Insect Wins Ecology Competition

The story of a conquest. The fruiting body of a parasitic fungus erupts from the body of its victim. Overall Winner | Roberto Garcia-Roa

A photo of a “zombie” fungus that killed a fly and then erupted from its body has won the BMC Ecology and Evolution image competition 2022.

The astonishing image was taken by Roberto García-Roa, an evolutionary biologist and conservation photographer, who captured the unsettling photo in the Peruvian jungle of Tambopata.

García-Roa explains that “spores of the so-called ‘Zombie’ (genera Ophiocordyceps) fungus infect arthropods by infiltrating their exoskeleton and minds.”

“As a result, parasitized hosts are compelled to migrate to a more favorable location for the fungus’s growth,” explains the Spaniard.

“Here, they await death, at which point the fungus feeds on its host to produce fruiting bodies full of spores that will be jettisoned to infect more victims — a conquest shaped by thousands of years of evolution.”

waxwing
Gone with the berry. Flying under the influence. A waxwing feasts on fermented rowan berries. Winner of the Relationships in Nature category | Alwin Hardenbol

Meanwhile, a photo of a waxwing bird intoxicated from fermented berries won the Relationships in Nature category.

“Unsurprisingly, waxwings have evolved to have a relatively large liver to deal with their inadvertent alcoholism,” says photographer Alwin Hardenbol, who took the picture in Finland.

A bat locates its dinner via tuning into a frog’s broadcast to attract a mate. Runner up in the Relationships in Nature category | Alexander T. Baugh
baobab trees
Elephants are damaging Baobab trees in South Africa because they contain water which the elephants desperately try to access during droughts. Winner of the Biodiversity Under Threat category | Samantha Kreling
Wood frog under a freeze. A false spring—climate change threatens wood frog offspring. Runner up in the Biodiversity Under Threat category | Lindsey Swierk
In ovo. Gliding treefrog siblings at an early stage of their development. Winner of the Life Close Up category | Brandon Andre Guell
Bubble breathing in Water Anoles. An anole lizard dives using a clever trick to breathe underwater. Runner up in the Life Close Up category | Lindsey Swierk
Fieldwork with masks, rain, and tadpoles. Researchers investigate the effect of isolated trees and land use on tadpole-mediated nutrient recycling during the COVD-19 pandemic. Winner of the Research in Action category | Jefferson Ribeiro Amaral
Focus amidst the chaos. PhD student, Brandon A. Güell, amidst thousands of reproducing gliding treefrogs. Runner up in the Research in Action category | Brandon A. Guell

The BMC Ecology and Evolution photography competition is an annual contest that attracts entries from ecologists and evolutionary biologists from around the globe.

Only photographers who are affiliated with a research institution are invited to submit to four categories. These include Relationships in Nature, Biodiversity under Threat, Life Close Up, and Research in Action.

BMC Ecology and Evolutionary is an open-access peer-reviewed journal that examines ecological and evolutionary biology.

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