BioScapes: the beauty of nature

Blue-green algaeSometimes a picture says it all, but occasionally a picture just fascinates you even though you’re not quite sure what you’re looking at.

The pictures from the Olympus BioScapes Competition fall into the latter category and we just couldn’t withhold a few of them from you.

Nostoc commune

First off is a photo by Gerd Guenther and our personal favourite: spherical colonies of Nostoc commune, a blue-green alga. It actually only made it to tenth place, but it is still our picture of choice. Not just for its beauty, but also because of the significance of the organism in the picture.

Since blue-green algae or cyanobacteria as they are also known are suspected of no less than having turned the Earth’s atmosphere from a reducing one into an oxidising one. It is hard to imagine that something this small and beautiful kick-started a dramatic change in the composition of life on Earth by stimulating biodiversity and bringing oxygen-intolerant organisms on the brink of extinction.

The endosymbiotic theory even states that chloroplasts, the organelles that conduct photosynthesis in eukaryotic algae and in plants are actually remnants of cyanobacteria that merged with early eukaryotes.

Floscularia ringens


The picture that actually won the contest is the picture of a rotifer Floscularia ringens by Charles Krebs. This planktonic creature lives to about 1.5 millimetres in length and lives in freshwater environments, where it builds a tiny tube from detritus that it attaches to the underside of water lily leaves.

Their nickname ‘wheel animal’ comes from the numerous inward moving cilia on its lobes that look like rotating wheels and are meant for gathering food particles from the surrounding water and direct them to its mouth. Their most important function in nature is the dubious honour of being a major food source.

© Jorn van Dooren |

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