The winner of the 36th Nikon Small World Photomicrography Competition has just been announced. Looking like one of those visualizations from Windows Media Player, the judges' choice for the top prize was picked from a field of over 2,000 entries. The photograph by Jonas King shows anopheles gambiae (mosquito heart) magnified 100 times and was taken using fluorescence microscopy.

Nikon's Small World competition began in 1974 to showcase the work of photographers choosing to snap microscopic subjects. It has since "become the top forum for showing the beauty and complexity of life as seen through the light microscope, and it celebrates the world's best photomicrographers who are creating beautiful imagery while demonstrating a variety of scientific disciplines."

The competition is open to anyone with an interest in photography and submissions can be made in both digital and 35mm film formats. The subject matter is left entirely up to entrants so long as some form of light microscopy technique is used. In choosing winners, the judges look for originality, informational content, technical proficiency and visual impact but there's also a Popular Vote category where the public gets to pick a winner.

This year saw a record number of more than 2,200 entries being sent in from scientists, photographers and artists around the world. The judges tasked with whittling down the field and choosing the prize winners were Jeremy A Kaplan from, Betsy Mason from, Alison North (Ph.D) from Rockefeller University and retired Michigan State University Lab Director Shirley A Owens (Ph.D). On hand as consultant to the judges was Michael W Davidson from Florida State University's Optical and Magneto-Optical Imaging Center.

And the winner is...

The first prize of US$3,000 towards the purchase of Nikon equipment was awarded to Jonas King of Vanderbilt University's Department of Biological Sciences, Nashville, Tennessee. His subject was a mosquito heart (anopheles gambiae), which he magnified 100 times and recorded using fluorescence technology.

Dr. Hideo Otsuna from University of Utah Medical Center's Department of Neurobiology and Anatomy came a close second with his confocal microscopy image of a 5-day old zebrafish head magnified 20 times. He wins US$2,000 towards Nikon equipment.

The third place prize of US$1,000 of Nikon equipment credit went to Oliver Braubach from the Department of Physiology & Biophysics of Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia, Canada. He also captured his image of the cauliflower-like Zebrafish olfactory bulbs magnified 250 times using confocal microscopy.

Italy's Riccardo Taiariol grabbed fourth and US$800 towards a Nikon purchase for his fascinating 10 times magnified Wasp nest which he captured using extended depth of field stereomicroscopy.

Alien meets The Muppets for the fifth place image of Strelitzia reginae (bird of paradise) seed magnified 10 times using darkfield illumination. US$600 in Nikon credit is winging its way to Viktor Sykora of Charles University in Prague, Czech Republic.

All 20 winners can be viewed at the Nikon Small World competition gallery, which also showcases some honorable mentions and those deemed worthy of distinction. The top 20 winners will also have their submissions exhibited at numerous museums and science centers throughout the U.S. and Canada.

The public vote winner in the Popular Vote category was a photograph of a black bean aphid containing its offspring, magnified 40 times and snapped using Phase contrast microscopy. The image by Dr. Tomas Cabello of Universidad of Almería in Roquetas de Mar, Spain was picked from a line-up of 120 finalists featured on the Nikon Small World website and also caught the attention of the judges, recognized as an Image of Distinction.