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Clearwing butterfly wins BMC Ecology Image Competition 2018

Clearwing butterfly wins BMC Ecology Image Competition 2018

 From bridges built by spiders, to marine mammals without table manners, and the unpredictability of volcanoes, the 2018 BMC Ecology Image Competition produced a terrific array of images that reflect the variety of research in progress in the field. All images are open access and available for use under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license.

The overall winning image by Marianne Elias, Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle, France is a photo of the clearwing butterfly Hypomenitis enigma.  The picture was taken in the southern Andes of Ecuador, the butterfly’s natural habitat. The species’ unique wing transparency is caused by the particular shape of its wing scales (which look like hair), and the presence of tiny structures on the wing surface that act as anti-reflectors, increasing the amount of light transmitted through the wing.

Guest judge, Professor Zhigang Jiang of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, said: “This photo does a fantastic job of showcasing the striking beauty of a rather enigmatic species little known to people, whose transparent wings still raise multiple questions regarding its evolution. Marianne Elias’ entry not only shows the beauty often found in nature, but also highlights some of the research going on in the field of ecology in the biodiversity-rich tropics, making it a worthy winner of this year’s competition”.

The winner was chosen from more than 140 entries. There were two overall runners up and winners from five categories: Community, Population and Macroecology; Behavioral Ecology and Physiology; Conservation Ecology and Biodiversity; Landscape Ecology and Ecosystems; and the Editor’s Pick.

The winning images and an additional six highly commended images highlight pressing issues in ecology, from the important roles that species play in their environment, to the mutually beneficial relationships they form, and the need for conservation and recovery of threatened habitats. All images are released free to use under a Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY).

The Conservation Ecology and Biodiversity Research category winner called ‘Little Treasure of the steppes’, was captured by Pilar Oliva Vidal from University of Lleida, Spain, who also submitted one of the overall runners up. It depicts a steppe bird in its natural habitat, surrounded by bright red flowers.

Section editor Josef Settele, one of the judges, said: “We chose this picture because of the composition of colours, and because it highlights the importance of guaranteeing the conservation and recovery of habitats like steppes, and their species, through the appropriate management of human activities.”

‘Small Bridges’, by Darko Davor Cotoras Viedma of the California Academy of Sciences, USA, was this year’s Editor’s Pick. The image shows the highly specific web created by a Wendilgarda galapagensis spider. Unlike the familiar orb webs produced by other spiders, W. galapagensis, which is endemic to the remote Isla del Coco in the Eastern Tropical Pacific, spins webs that resemble hanging bridges.

Now in its sixth year, the BMC Ecology Image competition was created to give ecologists the chance to share their research and photographic skills, and celebrate the intersection of art and science.

Senior editor Alison Cuff said: “We were delighted at the variety and quality of the images submitted to the 2018 competition. Having the input of respected scientists as our judges ensures our winning images were picked as much for the scientific story behind them as for the technical quality and beauty of the images themselves. As such, the competition very much reflects BMC’s ethos of innovation, curiosity and integrity. We thank all those who took part in this year’s competition, and congratulate our winning photographers; we hope our readers and the public enjoy their work as much as we have.”




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  1. The winning image and runners up are available here:

    Highly commended images are available here:

    All images are available under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International license. Please credit the photographers in any re-use. Credit and caption information can be found here:

  2. Announcement:

BMC ecology image competition 2018: the winning images
Cuff et al. BMC Ecology 2019
DOI: 10.1186/s12898-019-0226-z

The editorial announcing the winners can be found here.

If you are writing for the web, please link to the announcement.

3. BMC Ecology is an open access, peer-reviewed journal that considers articles on environmental, behavioral and population ecology as well as biodiversity of plants, animals and microbes.

4. A pioneer of open access publishing, BMC has an evolving portfolio of high quality peer-reviewed journals including broad interest titles such as BMC Biology and BMC Medicine, specialist journals such as Malaria Journal and Microbiome, and the BMC series. At BMC, research is always in progress. We are committed to continual innovation to better support the needs of our communities, ensuring the integrity of the research we publish, and championing the benefits of open research. BMC is part of Springer Nature, giving us greater opportunities to help authors connect and advance discoveries across the world.