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See The Tiny Carnivorous Monster That Just Won Olympus’s Micro Photo Prize

“Humped bladderwort” may sound like something from the imagination of J.K. Rowling, but in fact, it’s a real aquatic plant, found on all continents except Antarctica. It’s also carnivorous–which makes it that much more Potteresque. A hapless microinvertebrate floating by the plant’s miniature leaves could easily end up as bladder breakfast.

Today, the bladderwort is about to grab the stage from its more popular insect-eating flora. Igor Siwanowicz, a scientist at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Janelia Farm Research Campus, has just won first prize in the 2013 Olympus BioScapes Digital Imaging Competition for his photograph of the bladderwort in mid bite.

Specimen: Open trap of aquatic carnivorous plant, humped bladderwort Utricularia gibba, with single-cell organisms inside.
Technique: Confocal imaging, 100x Dr. Igor Siwanowicz

Siwanowicz’s photo was one of 2,100 still images and movies submitted for the competition from researchers in 71 countries. Though he spends most of his time imaging dragonfly anatomy, he has now managed to give the little-known bladderwort the notoriety it rightly deserves. Take that Venus Fly Trap!

Other winners from this year’s competition include the embryo of a black mastiff bat, a phantom midge larva, and a single-cell freshwater algae–which looks a lot more interesting than it sounds.

A series of winning photographs from the contest will be featured in exhibits around the U.S., Italy, Chile, Mexico, Brazil, Canada, Asia, and the Middle East next year. For now, see the top images in the gallery above.JM