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Stunning images of nature’s weird and wonderful unveiled in photo competition

<i>Roberto García-Roa</i><br/>The fruiting body of a parasitic fungus erupts from the body of a fly.
Roberto García-Roa
Roberto García-Roa
The fruiting body of a parasitic fungus erupts from the body of a fly.

By Hafsa Khalil, CNN

A bubble-breathing lizard, shelter-seeking elephants and a ravenous bat are just a few of the images in a spectacular showcase of nature’s weird and wonderful creatures unveiled in this year’s BMC Ecology and Evolution Image Competition.

But it’s the photo of a “zombie” fungus-infected fly that has been crowned the overall winner in the nature journal’s second annual contest.

The striking scene captured by Spanish photographer Roberto García-Roa, from the University of Valencia, was of the fruiting spores of a parasitic fungus erupting from the body of a fly in the Tambopata National Reserve, in Peru.

The image “depicts a conquest that has been shaped by thousands of years of evolution,” García-Roa said in a news release.

“The spores of the so-called ‘zombie’ fungus have infiltrated the exoskeleton and mind of the fly and compelled it to migrate to a location that is more favourable for the fungus’s growth,” he said. He added that the fruiting bodies of the fungus will later be jettisoned to infect more victims.

Christy Anna Hipsley, a senior editorial board member at the journal, and one of the competition’s judges, likened the image to something observed in “science-fiction.”

“It illustrates both life and death simultaneously as the death of the fly gives life to the fungus,” she said.

Winners and runners-up were also selected in four categories: relationships in nature, research in action, biodiversity under threat and life close up.

Among the winning images was US photographer Brandon André Güell’s picture of gliding treefrog embryos developing within their eggs in the Osa Peninsula, in Costa Rica, during an explosive breeding event following a rainstorm.

The competition was created to give ecologists and evolutionary biologists the opportunity to celebrate their research creatively to emphasize the need to protect nature, organizers said.

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