Photo of a zombie fungus infecting an insect wins an ecology competition

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

A photo of a ‘zombie’ mushroom that killed a fly and then burst from its body has won the 2022 BMC Ecology and Evolution image competition.

The stunning 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’ fungus (genus Ophiocordyceps) infect arthropods by infiltrating their exoskeleton and mind.”

“As a result, the parasitized hosts are forced to migrate to a place more favorable to the growth of the fungus”, explains the Spaniard.

“Here they await death, at which time the fungus feeds on its host to produce spore-filled fruiting bodies that will be released to infect more victims – a conquest shaped by thousands of years of evolution.”

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

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

“Unsurprisingly, waxwings evolved to have relatively large livers to cope with their involuntary alcoholism,” says photographer Alwin Hardenbol, who took the photo in Finland.

A bat locates its dinner by tuning into a frog’s broadcast to attract a mate. Second in the category Relationships in nature | Alexander T. Baugh
Elephants damage baobab trees in South Africa because they contain water that elephants desperately try to access during droughts. Winner of the Threatened Biodiversity category | Samantha Kreling
Wood frog under a frost. A false spring: climate change threatens the offspring of the wood frog. Second in the Biodiversity under threat category | Lindsey Swierk
In ovum. The siblings of slippery tree frogs at an early stage of development. Life Close Up Category Winner | Brandon Andre Guell
Breathing bubble in water Anoles. An anole lizard dives using a clever trick to breathe underwater. Second in the Life Close Up category | Lindsey Swierk
Field work with masks, rain and tadpoles. Researchers are studying the effect of isolated trees and land use on nutrient cycling by tadpoles during the COVD-19 pandemic. Action Research Category Winner | Jefferson Ribeiro Amaral
Focus amid chaos. Ph.D. student Brandon A. Güell among thousands of breeding slippery tree frogs. Second in Action Research | Brandon A. Guell

The BMC Ecology and Evolution Photo Contest is an annual competition that attracts entries from ecologists and evolutionary biologists around the world.

Only photographers affiliated with a research institution are invited to submit in four categories. These include relationships in nature, biodiversity under threat, close-up life and research in action.

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