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And The Winner Is: The Humped Bladderwort

An image taken with a microscope shows a cross section of the trap of a humped bladderwort (Utricularia gibba). Those spiky discs are friendly algae that hitch a ride inside. Igor Siwanowicz hide caption

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Igor Siwanowicz

An image taken with a microscope shows a cross section of the trap of a humped bladderwort (Utricularia gibba). Those spiky discs are friendly algae that hitch a ride inside.

Igor Siwanowicz

We get a lot of press releases about photo contests, but this winning image from the Olympus BioScapes Imaging Competition (which I didn't even know existed) stood out for a few reasons:

1. The image itself is really neat.

2. What's actually happening in the image is also neat: Apparently this is like a microscopic aquatic version of a Venus' flytrap — it sucks little microinvertebrates into its trap a millisecond after they trigger its hairs.

3. It's called a humped bladderwort, or Utricularia gibba if you wanna get technical. It's a flowering plant that grows in ponds and lakes all over the world. (Earnest bladderwort explainer video.)

4. Speaking of technical, the process is interesting. According to press-release jargon, "Igor Siwanowicz, a neurobiologist at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute's Janelia Farm Research Campus ... magnified the plant 100 times using a laser scanning confocal microscope and used cellulose-binding fluorescent dye Calcofluor White to visualize the cell walls of the plant."

Siwanowicz began photographing about 10 years ago, and has a much larger collection of similar images — which you won't regret checking out.

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Science! Neat.