Videos of Live Embryos, Cancer Cell Win 'Small World' Awards

This video might change the way you look at quail eggs.

A scientist who made a stunning time-lapse video of a growing quail embryo took home top honors in Nikon's 2013 Small World in Motion Competition, a contest that treats photomicrographs — pictures often used by scientists — as objects of art. The winners were announced Wednesday (April 23).

Using a technique known as optical tomography, Gabriel G. Martins, a researcher at Portugal's University of Lisbon, stitched together 1,000 separate images to create a 3D reconstruction of the whole embryo, which measures just less an inch (23 millimeters) in length. The result is a video clip that covers 10 days of gestation.

The second-place prize went to Michael Weber, a researcher at Germany's Max Planck Institute of Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics, for his video that peers into another kind of embryo — that of a zebrafish just two days into its development. The tiny creature's heart, measuring only slightly wider than a human hair, throbs and pumps blood cells into the surrounding network of vessels in the video created via light sheet microscopy.

Lin Shao, of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute in Virginia, came in third place for a video showing a twitching cell from the immortal line of HeLa cancer cells, the first cancer cells to replicate continuously in culture. According to the contest organizers, this clip is the very first to show the inner details of the mitochondria in a living cell within a 3D image. It was made using fast 3D wide-field structured illumination microscopy.

The video contest, now in its third year, is a companion to Nikon's long-running Small World photo competition. Past winners of the still-image contests have included an up-close shot of a corkscrew-shaped plankton, a picture of the blood-brain barrier in a live zebrafish embryo and a creepy portrait of a green lacewing and its intricate mouthparts. The winners of the 2013 video contest were awarded up to $3,000 worth of equipment from Nikon.

Follow Megan Gannon on Twitter and Google+. Follow us @livescienceFacebook Google+. Original article on Live Science.

Megan Gannon
Live Science Contributor
Megan has been writing for Live Science and since 2012. Her interests range from archaeology to space exploration, and she has a bachelor's degree in English and art history from New York University. Megan spent two years as a reporter on the national desk at NewsCore. She has watched dinosaur auctions, witnessed rocket launches, licked ancient pottery sherds in Cyprus and flown in zero gravity. Follow her on Twitter and Google+.