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.”
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.
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.