BMC Ecology announces the winning entries in its inaugural Ecology Image Competition, open to anyone affiliated with a research institute. The competition, which received more than 200 entries from international researchers at all career levels and a wide variety of scientific disciplines, was looking for striking visual interpretations of ecological processes. In this Editorial, our academic Section Editors and guest judge Dr Yan Wong explain what they found most appealing about their chosen winning entries, and highlight a few of the outstanding images that didn’t quite make it to the top prize.
Overall Winner. “ Timema poppensis perfectly camouflaged on its host, Redwood Sequoia sempervirens, California. This and other, closely related, species are adapted to live on very different host plants and at different elevations. These ecological specialisations have triggered the splitting into distinct species. How this ecological speciation is promoted, for example by divergent camouflage, can be studied by comparing species of Timema stick insects. Analysis of their DNA also reveals which regions in the genome play important roles in ecological speciation. The results of this research will advance our understanding of how biodiversity forms generally. ” Attribution: Moritz Muschick
Overall Runner-up. “ Multiple flower forms and phenologies visible in a subalpine meadow (Colorado) ” . Attribution: Benjamin Blonder.
Winner: Behavioural and Physiological Ecology . “ A harem of 127 females is a prize that has to be earned. Where female Southern Elephant Seals ( Mirounga leonina ) provide all the parental care, they will only reproduce in the territory of the biggest males, the biggest fathers for their offspring. Females average 400 to 900 kg, while males weigh up to 4 tons; Southern Elephant Seals show the largest sexual dimorphism among land breeding mammals. When a male challenges the head of a harem he needs to prove his strength at a great cost, resulting in a fascinating and captivating fight between the two giants. ” Attribution: Laëtitia Kernaléguen
Winner: Community, Population and Macroecology . Scarce swallowtail, Scabius flower and Polistine wasp. Attribution: Michael Siva-Jothy.
Winner: Conservation Ecology and Biodiversity. “ A Galápagos tortoise ( Chelonoidis nigra ) utilizing a human road on Santa Cruz Island. I took this photograph while researching ecological interactions between species and landscapes in the Galápagos. ” Attribution: Hara Woltz.
Winner: Landscape Ecology and Ecosystems . “ Rice paddy in Yuanyang, China ” Attribution: Yulin Jia. Biology Image Library ID 65539
Winner: Editor's Pick. “ Surveying old-growth secondary forest along the remote Rio Tunquimayo in the Puno province in SE Peru to determine the impact of coffee cultivation on bird conservation ” Attribution: Raf Aerts.