Tiny gaping mouth wins top Nikon Small World photo honors

Story highlights

  • 2014 winner of Nikon photomicrography competition features open-mouthed rotifer
  • Competition started in 1974 to find world's best microscopic images
  • 1,200 entries were received this year from 79 countries
The true test of patience is peering for hours into a microscope waiting for a rotifer to open its mouth so you can snap a quick photo.
That's exactly what Rogelio Moreno did to win this year's Nikon Small World competition, an annual event, now in its 40th year, which applauds the artistic merit and skill in microscopic images.
For those who don't know, rotifers are tiny aquatic animals typically 200 to 500 micrometers long, that's less than half a millimeter, at best.
They're found in fresh water and moist soil, where they linger in raindrops feeding on phytoplankton and algae filtered through the crown of cilia -- which is also called a corona -- around their mouths.
"I have always wanted to capture an image where the rotifer show the complete corona in focus, so when I saw the heart-shaped corona I had a feeling it would be a very special picture," Moreno told CNN.
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Moreno started taking microscopic images in his spare time just five years ago.
He's self-taught and, by day, works as a computer system programmer.
Moreno has won a place every year since he started entering the competition three years ago.
"To take this image, I used a flash to freeze the movement of the rotifer and differential interference contrast (DIC) to show the beautiful details and the blue background," he said.
The photo was deemed the most striking and skillful of more than 1,200 entries from 79 countries.
The top five images this year zoomed in on a calcite crystal, jumping spider eyes, a caterpillar proleg and cells of a bovine pulmonary artery -- proving that beauty can be found just about anywhere.