Dr. Jan Michels, Christian-Albrechts-Universi
It might sound a bit cramped, but there's an entire world of organisms that can call a drop of water their home. And, up close, they look practically out-of-this-world. Each year, the Nikon Small World competition sets out to collect some of the best microphotography. Take a look at some of this year's most stunning images of creatures that live in water. This photo from Dr. Jan Michels of Christian-Albrechts-Universität zu Kiel in Kiel, Germany shows Temora longicornis, a marine copepod, from its ventral view at 10 times magnification.
SEE MORE PHOTOS: It's a Nikon Small World After All
Frank Fox, Fachhochschule Trier/Nikon Small W
This microphotograph shows the diatom Melosira moniliformis at 320 times its size.
Jonathan Franks, University of Pittsburgh/Nik
This algae biofilm photographed up-close makes what's usually referred to as "pond scum" look like art.
Michael Shribak and Dr. Irina Arkhipova, Mari
This Philodina roseola rotifer was alive and well when this microphotograph was taken.
Dr. Ralf Wagner/Nikon Small World
This microphoto shows a water flea flanked by green algae.
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Charles Krebs Photography/Nikon Small World
Warfare in a water droplet! This microphoto shows a Hydra capturing a water flea at 40-times magnification.
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Dr. John H. Brackenbury, University of Cambri
One of the ultimate human pests -- the mosquito -- begins life as larvae, here shown suspended in a single droplet of water.
Gerd A. Guenther/Nikon Small World
Ever wonder what sex between two freshwater ciliates looks like magnified at 630 times its actual size? Now you know!
Joan Rohl, Institute for Biochemistry and Bio
This freshwater water flea is shown at 100 times its actual size.
Wolfgang Bettighofer/Nikon Small World
Closterium lunula, a kind of green alga, is shown here. This particular specimen came from a bog pond, according to the photographer.
John Gaynes, University of Utah/Nikon Small W
While it may resemble a visitor from outer space, this is what a zebrafish embryo looks like under a microscope, three days after being fertilized.
Dr. Carlos Alberto Muñoz, University of Puer
This microscopic crustacean appears yellowish-orange because it is mounted in Canada Balsam with crystals and other artifacts.
Plastic water bottles remain an unshakable scourge because of the trash they generate, but student designers from Spain want to kick them to the curb permanently. They’ve created a blobby alternative, where the medium is the membrane.
The blob design, called “Ooho,” encapsulates water in a double gelatinous membrane made from brown algae and calcium chloride. Spanish design students Rodrigo García González, Guillaume Couche and Pierre Paslier say their water bottle alternative is simple, cheap, durable, hygienic, biodegradable and even edible. Hat tips to Inhabitat and Co.Exist.
By cheap, they mean each one costs two cents to make — and is simple enough to create at home. The designers say that this kind of “spherification” dates back to 1946, and has been used more recently in modern cuisine. As Co.Exist’s Adele Peters pointed out, a similar concept for food delivery called WikiPearl is available commercially.
One downside is that you have to pierce the Ooho to drink, and that can be messy. Plus it’d be hard to keep them clean for everyday use. However, they could be perfect for running events, where race organizers struggle with waste. I remember one 10K gave participants reusable clip-on water pouches, but runners mostly grabbed paper cups anyway.
Runners crave speedy delivery — think electrolyte goo — so these edible blobs might help with that, as long as long as discarded ones don’t inadvertently create intensely slippery conditions. Then it would be Ooho no.
Photo: The edible “Ooho” blob encapsulates water in a gelatinous membrane. Credit: Rodrigo García González, and Guillaume Couche and Pierre Paslier via Designboom.