Watch the World’s Tiniest Nature Films


Have you ever seen a termite digesting its food? Well, now you can. The winners of Nikon’s 2015 Small World in Motion contest used microscopes and video cameras to capture the beauty, wonder, and grossness of the tiniest parts of the natural world. 

First prize went to Wim van Egmond, curator of the Micropolitan Museum in the Netherlands, whose film showcased the microscopic equivalent of a lion devouring a gazelle: one microbe eating another inside a droplet of pond water. This is not van Egmond’s first Small World win; in 2012, he took home first prize in the still image competition.

“Wildlife is so close to us, yet most of us never look close enough to see it,” van Egmond said in a press statement. “A pool in your garden is actually a miniature underwater jungle teeming with life. If you want to see the world, your backyard is a great place to start.” 

Danielle Parsons, host of YouTube show Wonder Science TV, won second place for her video of termite digestion in action. Like humans, termites rely on bacteria to help them break down their food. This relationship is good for both the bacteria and the termite. “The fact that these are mutually beneficial relationships was appealing,” Parsons said in a press statement. “I think it's important to highlight examples of harmony in nature, and counterbalance a media climate that celebrates fear, disaster and conflict in nature. I think my video is significant in so far as it promotes the wonder of nature.”

This year’s third-place video is not for the squeamish. New Zealand scientist Gonzalo Avila took a video of a parasitic wasp larva bursting out of its caterpillar host. The action takes place on a very small scale, but that doesn’t stop it from being unnverving. The larva’s exit actually took several hours, but Avila sped the film up 64x, rendering the experience mercifully brief. It’s hard not to feel bad for the caterpillar, but Avila notes that these caterpillars are pests, and parasitic wasps play a crucial role in the ecosystem by helping to keep the population in check.

To see the rest of the winners, click here.

Banner image courtesy of Nikon Microscopes