Photo by biologist Bert Willaert captures group of tadpoles from the underneath, looking up at the clouds and trees
An underwater photo has claimed first place in the Royal Society Publishing photography competition, showing a glimpse of life through the eyes of a tadpole.
The photo, by biologist Bert Willaert, is a uniquely angled view of a group of tadpoles.
Taken from underneath, the image directs the viewer’s gaze up toward the trees through crystal clear water, where the tiny swimmers appear to be flying.
The award celebrates the power of photography to communicate science. Willaert’s photo was chosen from more than 1,000 entries, and his photo along with runners up will be displayed at ‘Life through a lens,’ a free Royal Society event on November 26.
Tadpoles overhead. Overall winner, Category winner: Ecology and Environmental Science. Tadpoles of many anuran species come in high numbers, but not many make it to adulthood. Here a group of common toad (Bufo bufo) tadpoles is seen from below by Bert Willaert, Belgium. It was shot with a canon G12 camera in a Recsea underwater housing and a Dyron dome port.
‘Clear water is hard to come across in the part of Belgium where I live, as a consequence of eutrophication,’ Willaert says.
‘Algae grows from the nutrients flushed down the drains in detergents and sewage, clouding the waters and suffocating other oxygen-dependent life. When I noticed these common toad tadpoles in the crystal clear canal I wanted to capture the chance encounter from their perspective,’ he says.
The tadpole photo was chosen for its unique perspective of an everyday occurrence.
‘The underwater world is only accessed by a limited number of people, and snorkeling in the fresh water in Belgium, I was surprised by the beautiful scenery and the silence,’ says Willaert.
Ancestry. Dominance. Endangered. Runner up: Ecology and Environmental Science. ‘This photo shows the strength and power of gorillas, one of our closest living relatives, yet also shows their vulnerability due to the pressures put on their world by humans, said photographer Martha Robbins, from Germany. ‘Taken in Rwanda, I observed the gorillas walking to the eucalyptus trees outside of the Volcanoes National Park and watched them strip the bark with their teeth. Within a few minutes, the silverback of the group sat down to eat bark and faced out towards the farmland — almost as if he was contemplating the human society that lives next to the gorillas’ habitat.’
Going with the flow: schooling to avoid a predator. Category winner: Behaviour. A school of tropical clupeid fish exhibit synchronized behaviour to keep a healthy distance from a teenage black-tip reef shark. Sharks would cruise placidly for hours without so much as looking at the smaller fish, until, all of a sudden, they would strike and gobble up a mouthful of clupeids. The picture was taken on a shallow reef flat on Kuramathi Island in the Rasdhoo Atoll, Republic of Maldives
A panel of expert scientists judged the competition, including Professor Alex Badyaev, a category winner in the 2011, 2012, and 2014 Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition.
This year’s competition was launched by two Royal Society biological science journals, Proceedings of the Royal Society B and Biology Letters. The competition celebrates the 350th anniversary of the world’s longest running scientific journal, Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society.
Other entries showed images across all walks of natural life, from a pensive baboon to a close up of the whisk-like hairs on a water fern.
Caribbean brain coral. Special commendation: Proceedings B Publisher’s choice. The deep and abundant mysteries of reef building corals – their systematics, genetics, and phenotypic plasticity (variability in form possible within a single genetic individual) are only just now yielding their secrets to modern science.
SEM Argulus ventral view. Branchiura, commonly called carp lice or fish lice are a group of parasitic crustaceans of uncertain position within the Maxillopoda. Although they are thought to be primitive forms, they have no fossil record. Almost all are ectoparasites on fish. Argulus attaches itself to the skin or fins and feeds on blood by inserting it’s stylet feeding apparatus into the flesh.
‘To me the winning photo communicates the power of a common biological phenomenon visualized in a new light, and from a perspective that emphasizes the other half of the ecosystem,’ says Bagyaev.
‘The half we usually miss when looking down at a tadpoles’ puddle, but one that is very much part of the tadpoles’ own view—the clouds, the trees, and the sky.’
Willaert, who is a biologist of amphibian evolution and an environmental advisor says recognizing beauty in everyday natural phenomena can inspire conservation efforts.
Bitis peringueyi hiding under sand. Sand has scales. Runner up: Evolutionary Biology. Bitis peringueyi is an endemic adder from the Nabib desert. It’s an ambush predator, highly equipped for the job. Many snakes are disguise masters but few completely burrow their entire body beneath the surface and fewer have their eyes located on the top of their head.
A baboon gets lost in his thoughts at Cape Point Reserve, South Africa. Special commendation. I was taking photos of a group of baboons trying to capture some interesting action shots. I noted this baboon sitting and facing the sun with his eyes closed, once I got close enough, without distracting him, he put one hand under his face, posing as though he was lost in his thoughts.
‘To conserve the natural world I think drawing attention to the beauty of these ordinary moments in our own neighbourhoods, including our own backyards, is particularly important,’ says Willaert.
‘I believe people will only conserve things when they know it exists—and how often will people have had snorkeled in their own garden pond?’
Winning photographs in each of the categories Behavior, Ecology and Environmental Science, and Evolutionary Biology will be displayed at the free Royal Society event, and experts will be discussing their own experiences in capturing nature.
Smashing. Runner up: Behaviour. An adult wild bearded capuchin monkey uses a stone tool to crack a very resistant palm nut in Fazenda Boa Vista (Piauì, Brazil). These monkeys habitually crack open very resistant palm nuts on hard surfaces using stones as percussive tools. This behaviour is considered one of the most complex forms of tool use by nonhuman species seen in nature.
Runs at Dawn (left) Special commendation: Biology Letters publisher’s choice. In the Canary Islands of Lanzarote and Fuerteventura, after every winter rains Canarian Houbarabustard (Chlamydotis undulata) males begin their impressive courtship displays. Fern with a drysuit (right) Category winner: Evolutionary Biology. Plants have evolved elaborate surface structures to modify the wettability of their leaves. The leaves of the water fern Salvinia molesta are covered with whisk-like hairs.