Coral growth wins Nikon Small World contest

Editorial

Rebecca Pool

Wednesday, December 11, 2019 - 13:45
Image: Coral-reef building polyp captured using custom light-sheet fluorescence microscopy.
 
UK researcher, Dr Philippe Laissue from the University of Essex, has won first place in the Nikon Small World in Motion Competition, one of the world's largest scientific video competitions.
 
Laissue's beautiful, winning video shows a coral-reef building polyp emerging in low light from Staghorn coral.
 
The photosynthetic algae that live inside the coral, in a mutually beneficial relationship, can also be seen.
 
Video of a polyp emerging in low light from Staghorn coral. The coral tissue is green, the photosynthetic algae are magenta. [Philippe Laissue, University of Essex/MBL]
 
To image corals, Laissue built a bespoke light-sheet fluorescence microscope to allow gentle observation of the emerging polyps.
 
"Dimming the light has enabled me to show the coral's dynamics close up, and illustrate the beauty and otherworldliness of these ancient organisms," says Laissue. "At the same time, we can collect important information about what is happening on the cellular level when corals react to different environmental conditions.”
 
“This helps us to better understand corals and their development, thus contributing to finding the best strategies to protect and conserve them," he adds.
 
Laissue also carries out research at The Marine Biological Laboratory, University of Chicago on local cold water coral, Astrangia poculata, and is continuing development of the light-sheet microscope he used for the winning video here.
 
Second prize went to independent plankton researcher, Dr Richard Kirby, for his video of Vampyrophrya (parasite) tomites swimming rapidly around and within the body of the dead host.
 
Vampyrophrya (parasite) tomites swimming rapidly around and within the body of the dead copepod host. [Dr Richard R Kirby]
 
Tommy and Jesse Gunn won third prize for capturing the Stylonychia microorganism creating a water vortex using its cilia.
 
 
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