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.”
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.
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.