top of page
  • Writer's pictureVeronica Pulumbarit

Photo of zebrafish wins top prize in Nikon microscopy competition

MELVILLE, N.Y. (PRNewswire) -- Nikon Instruments Inc. announced the winners of the 46th annual Nikon Small World Photomicrography Competition.

Daniel Castranova, assisted by Bakary Samasa while working in the lab of Dr. Brant Weinstein at the National Institutes of Health, took the top prize for his artfully rendered and technically immaculate photo of a juvenile zebrafish.

The image is a dorsal view of the head of a fish with fluorescently "tagged" skeleton, scales (blue) and lymphatic system (orange), taken using confocal microscopy and image-stacking.

PRNewsphoto/Nikon Instruments Inc.

This image is particularly significant because it was taken as part of an imaging effort that helped Castranova's team make a groundbreaking discovery - zebrafish have lymphatic vessels inside their skull that were previously thought to occur only in mammals.

Their occurrence in fish, a much easier subject to raise, experiment with, and photograph, could expedite and revolutionize research related to treatments for diseases that occur in the human brain, including cancer and Alzheimer's.

Castranova stitched together more than 350 individual images to create this single stunning visual. The image was acquired using a spinning disk confocal, merging together maximum intensity projections of three separate image Z stacks to generate the final reconstructed image.

"The image is beautiful, but also shows how powerful the zebrafish can be as a model for the development of lymphatic vessels," Castranova said, "Until now, we thought this type of lymphatic system associated with the nervous system only occurred in mammals. By studying them, the scientific community can expedite a range of research and clinical innovations – everything from drug trials to cancer treatments. This is because fish are so much easier to raise and image than mammals."

"For 46 years, the goal of the Nikon Small World competition has been to share microscopic imagery that visually blends art and science for the general public," said Eric Flem, Communications Manager, Nikon Instruments, "As imaging techniques and technologies become more advanced, we are proud to showcase imagery that this blend of research, creativity, imaging technology and expertise can bring to scientific discovery. This year's first place winner is a stunning example."

Second place was awarded to Daniel Knop for his image of the embryonic development of a clownfish (Amphiprion percula) on days 1, 3 (morning and evening), 5, and 9, created using image-stacking. It shows the development, from hours after fertilization (even with a pack of sperm cells being visible on top of the egg), until hours before hatching. The primary challenge was to create sharp focus stacking pictures while the embryo was alive and moving.

Third place was captured by Small World veteran Dr. Igor Siwanowicz for this picture of the tongue (radula) of a freshwater snail, using confocal microscopy.

In addition to the top three winners, Nikon Small World recognized 88 photos out of thousands of entries from scientists and artists across the globe.

The 2020 judging panel included:

  • Dr. Dylan Burnette, Assistant Professor of Cell and Developmental Biology at Vanderbilt University

  • Dr. Christophe Leterrier, Group Leader at the Institute of Neurophysiopathology at CNRS and Aix-Marseille University

  • Samantha Clark, Photo Editor at National Geographic

  • Sean Greene, Graphics and Data Journalist at The Los Angeles Times

  • Ariel Waldman, Chair of the External Council for NASA's Innovative Advanced Concepts Program

For additional information, please visit, or follow the conversation on Facebook, Twitter @NikonSmallWorld and Instagram @NikonInstruments.

2020 NIKON SMALL WORLD WINNERS The following are the Top 20 and Honorable Mentions for Nikon Small World 2020. The full gallery of winning images, including the additional Images of Distinction, can be viewed at

1st Place Daniel Castranova, Dr. Brant Weinstein & Bakary Samasa Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development National Institutes of Health Section on Vertebrate Organogenesis Bethesda, Maryland, USA Dorsal view of bones and scales (blue) and lymphatic vessels (orange) in a juvenile zebrafish Confocal 4X (Objective Lens Magnification)

2nd Place Daniel Knop Natur und Tier-Verlag NTV Oberzent-Airlenbach, Hessen, Germany Embryonic development of a clownfish (Amphiprion percula) on days 1, 3 (morning and evening), 5, and 9 Image Stacking 10X (Objective Lens Magnification)

3rd Place Dr. Igor Siwanowicz Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) Janelia Research Campus Ashburn, Virginia, USA Tongue (radula) of a freshwater snail Confocal 40X (Objective Lens Magnification)

4th Place Dr. Vasileios Kokkoris, Dr. Franck Stefani & Dr. Nicolas Corradi University of Ottawa & Agriculture and Agrifood Canada Department of Biology Ottawa, Ontario, Canada Multi-nucleate spores and hyphae of a soil fungus (arbuscular mycorrhizal fungus) Confocal 63X (Objective Lens Magnification) 5th Place Ahmad Fauzan Saipem Jakarta, Indonesia Bogong moth Image Stacking 5X (Objective Lens Magnification)

6th Place Dr. Robert Markus & Zsuzsa Markus University of Nottingham School of Life Sciences, Super Resolution Microscopy Nottingham, Nottinghamshire, United Kingdom Hebe plant anther with pollen Confocal 10X (Objective Lens Magnification)

7th Place Jason Kirk Baylor College of Medicine Optical Imaging & Vital Microscopy Core Houston, Texas, USA Microtubules (orange) inside a cell. Nucleus is shown in cyan. Confocal 63X (Objective Lens Magnification)

8th Place Dr. Allan Carrillo-Baltodano & David Salamanca Queen Mary University of London School of Biological and Chemical Sciences London, United Kingdom Chameleon embryo (autofluorescence) Fluorescence 10X (Objective Lens Magnification)

9th Place Jason Kirk & Quynh Nguyen Baylor College of Medicine Optical Imaging & Vital Microscopy Core Houston, Texas, USA Connections between hippocampal neurons (brain cells) Confocal 63X (Objective Lens Magnification)

10th Place Ahmad Fauzan Saipem Jakarta, Indonesia Daphnia magna (Phyllopoda) Image Stacking 10X (Objective Lens Magnification)

11th Place Dr. Tagide deCarvalho University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC) Baltimore, Maryland, USA Red algae Confocal 63X (Objective Lens Magnification)

12th Place Robert Vierthaler Pfarrwerfen, Salzburg, Austria Human hair Image Stacking 20X (Objective Lens Magnification)

13th Place Justin Zoll Justin Zoll Photography Ithaca, New York, USA Crystals formed after heating an ethanol and water solution containing L-glutamine and beta-alanine Polarized Light 4X (Objective Lens Magnification)

14th Place Özgür Kerem Bulur Istanbul, Turkey Leaf roller weevil (Byctiscus betulae) lateral view Image Stacking, Reflected Light 3.7X (Objective Lens Magnification) 15th Place Dr. Eduardo Zattara & Dr. Alexa Bely CONICET Instituto Nac. de Investigaciones en Biodiversidad y Medio Ambiente Bariloche, Rio Negro, Argentina Chain of daughter individuals from the asexually reproducing annelid species Chaetogaster diaphanus Brightfield 5X (Objective Lens Magnification)

16th Place Alexander Klepnev JSC Radiophysics Moscow, Russian Federation Nylon stockings Polarized Light 9X (Objective Lens Magnification)

17th Place Anne Algar Hounslow, Middlesex, United Kingdom Ventral view of an immature water boatman Darkfield, Image Stacking, Polarized Light 4X (Objective Lens Magnification)

18th Place Chris Perani San Rafael, California, USA Atlas moth wing Image Stacking 10x (Objective Lens Magnification)

19th Place

Dr. Jan Michels Christian-Albrechts-Universität zu Kiel Department of Functional Morphology and Biomechanics Kiel, Schleswig-Holstein, Germany Silica cell wall of the marine diatom Arachnoidiscus sp. Confocal 50x (Objective Lens Magnification)

20th Place Dr. Dorit Hockman & Dr. Vanessa Chong-Morrison University of Cape Town Rondebosch, Cape Town, South Africa Skeleton preparation of a short-tailed fruit bat embryo (Carollia perspicillata) Brightfield 1X (Objective Lens Magnification)

Honorable Mentions Christopher Algar Hounslow, Middlesex, United Kingdom Phantom midge larva Darkfield, Image Stacking, Polarized Light 4X (Objective Lens Magnification)

George Thomas Barlow Duke University Department of Biology Durham, North Carolina, USA Egyptian star cluster (Pentas lanceolata) stigma Image Stacking 10X (Objective Lens Magnification)

Dr. Saikat Ghosh & Dr. Lolitika Mandal Indian Institute of Science Education and Research (IISER) Mohali Department of Biological Sciences Mohali, Punjab, India Lymph gland (blood organ) of a fruit fly larva Confocal 40X (Objective Lens Magnification)

Maikl Gribkov Mikrofoto Dzerzhinsky, Moskow Region, Russian Federation Black soldier fly (Hermetia illucens) Image Stacking 4X (Objective Lens Magnification)

Aigars Jukna Riga, Latvia Beetle leg Image Stacking, Reflected Light 10X (Objective Lens Magnification) Dr. Karl Koehler & Dr. Jiyoon Lee Boston Children's Hospital & Harvard Medical School Department of Otolaryngology & Plastic and Oral Surgery Boston, Massachusetts, USA Human hair follicles growing from a stem cell-derived skin organoid (cyan) with nerves (red) Confocal 20X (Objective Lens Magnification)

Alexey Marchenko AlexmarPhoto Gomel, Belarus Liquid crystals in a mobile LCD screen Brightfield 20X (Objective Lens Magnification)

Marek Miś Marek Miś Photography Suwalki, Podlaskie, Poland Daphnia sp. displaying seasonal changes in body shape with its elongated head and tail Darkfield, Polarized Light 10X (Objective Lens Magnification)

Dr. Andrew Moore & Dr. Dvir Gur Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) Janelia Research Campus Ashburn, Virginia, USA Actin in a live zebrafish (color-coded for depth) Confocal 63X (Objective Lens Magnification)

Jorge Perez Carsi Valencia, Spain Flower crab spider (Thomisus) Image Stacking 10X (Objective Lens Magnification)

Javier Replinger Profesor Técnico I.E.S Nestor Almendros Imagen y sonido Gines, Sevilla, Spain Head louse (Pediculus humanus capitis) Image Stacking, Reflected Light 10X (Objective Lens Magnification)

Marco Vinicio Retana Palmares, Alajuela, Costa Rica Ship-timber beetle (Lymexylidae) Image Stacking 5X (Objective Lens Magnification)

Dr. Igor Siwanowicz Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) Janelia Research Campus Ashburn, Virginia, USA Hedgehog flea Confocal 10X (Objective Lens Magnification)

Dr. Igor Siwanowicz Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) Janelia Research Campus Ashburn, Virginia, USA Freshwater snail tongue (radula) Confocal 40X (Objective Lens Magnification)

Jonard Corpuz Valdoz, Dr. Pam Van Ry & Dr. Richard Robison Brigham Young University Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry (Van Ry Lab) Provo, Utah, USA Mouse paw infected with Chikungunya Virus (pink). Immune response is shown in blue and general tissue in orange. Image Stitching, Confocal, Deconvolution 10X (Objective Lens Magnification)

Gerhard Zimmert Vienna, Austria Sweet violet (Viola odorata) root - transversal section Brightfield 10X (Objective Lens Magnification)

About Nikon Small World Photomicrography Competition The Nikon Small World Photomicrography Competition is open to anyone with an interest in photography or video. Participants may upload digital images and videos directly at For additional information, contact Nikon Small World, Nikon Instruments Inc., 1300 Walt Whitman Road, Melville, NY 11747, USA or phone (631) 547-8569. Entry forms for Nikon's 2021 Small World and Small World in Motion Competitions are available at

About Nikon Instruments Inc. Nikon Instruments Inc. is the US microscopy arm of Nikon Healthcare, a world leader in the development and manufacture of optical and digital imaging technology for biomedical applications.  For more information, visit or contact us at 1-800-52-NIKON.

2 views0 comments


bottom of page