Taken by flash at night, the winning photo shows a rock mouse licking viscous nectar off a pagoda lily, which sheds pollen on the mouse’s nose to be carried to the next lily.
A researcher monitoring black-browed albatross (Thalassarche melanophrys) colonies on a Falkland island was moved by the sight of a mother feeding her chick.
Even on a single blossom, many ecological processes are in play. A crab spider chows down on a bee that had just filled his “saddlebags” with pollen; a moth looks for nectar; and the edges of some petals show possible signs of fungal blight.
During the winter, king penguin chicks (Aptenodytes patagonicus) huddle together by the thousands while the parents are away fishing to fend off giant petrels that hunt them.
In Central Chile, a parasitoid fly swoops in to attack a Camponotus morosus ant. The ant was involved in a fight with ants from another nest, and the fly might have found its target by getting a whiff of the ants’ alarm chemicals.

Slideshow: Photo contest captures stunning interplay between plants and animals

More than most researchers, ecologists pay heed to the complex interplay between plants, animals, and the environment. And sometimes they capture the best interactions on film. In 2012, recognizing that there might be hidden photographic gems among all the data slides in ecologists’ collections, the journal BMC Ecology established a photo contest. Anyone affiliated with a research institution can win up to $400 for a photo or visualization image that best captures the aesthetics of ecological interactions.

In this second round of the annual competition, the journal’s editorial board and a guest judge, Caspar Henderson, author of The Book of Barely Imagined Beings: A 21st Century Bestiary, picked a furry pollinator as the winner from among 313 entries submitted by 94 researchers. With her picture, ecologist Petra Wester from Heinrich Heine University Düsseldorf in Germany documented for the first time that the Namaqua rock mouse (Aethomys namaquensis) pollinates the pagoda lily (Whiteheadia bifolia) in South Africa. The runner-up was a close-up of an albatross feeding her chick, and other images ranging from huddled penguin chicks to a visualization of simulations of predator-prey interactions and the evolution of camouflage earned recognition as the best photos on various subfields, such as behavioral and physiological ecology, landscape ecology, and ecosystems and theoretical ecology and models.