Here Are Some of the Freakiest Images of the Microscopic World

Here Are Some of the Freakiest Images of the Microscopic World

The scariest ant you've ever seen and a wasp's stinger up close are some of the many entries in Nikon’s Small World photo contest this year.

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This is an unfortunately up-close view of a carpenter ant.
This is an unfortunately up-close view of a carpenter ant.
Image: Eugenijus Kavaliauskas

Halloween is right around the corner, so what better time to show off some of the more disturbing images of a world that’s invisible to our naked eye?

These true-life horror pics come courtesy of the 2022 Nikon’s Small World Photomicrography Competition, now in its 47th year. Gizmodo previously covered the top winners of this contest, but there were many more distinctive images among the thousands of entries submitted this year. All of these photos were taken under an optical microscope using a variety of methods. Enjoy.

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Wispy Carbon

Wispy Carbon

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Image: Ole Bielfeldt

This haunting image shows unburned particles of carbon that are released as candle wax breaks down.

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The Fluorescent Salamander

The Fluorescent Salamander

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Image: Marko Pende

This shows a genetically modified axolotl salamander. The imaging method allows us to see parts of its nervous system, such as its axons colored in magenta.

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Jump Scare

Jump Scare

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Image: Andrew Posselt

This hair-raising image shows what a Bold Jumping Spider (Phidippus audax) looks like up close.

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A Dentist’s Best Friend

A Dentist’s Best Friend

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Image: Karl Deckart

As if dentistry isn’t scary enough, here’s a close-up of a dental drill bit that’s been studded with diamond chips.

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Plankton Food

Plankton Food

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Image: Wim van Egmond

This image shows the unfortunate fate of an anemone larva that’s ended up inside a species of marine plankton.

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A Bizarre Mold

A Bizarre Mold

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Image: Alison Pollack

This tree-like structure is actually a slime mold, a bizarre organism that can shapeshift into different forms of life depending on its survival needs.

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An Ant Like You’ve Never Seen One Before

An Ant Like You’ve Never Seen One Before

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Image: Eugenijus Kavaliauskas

This frightening entry shows a very close-up shot of a carpenter ant. Though it might be hard to tell, the red spots aren’t actually the ant’s eyes but rather the roots of its antenna. The less visible outline of one eye can seen farther back, at upper right.

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A Bountiful Home

A Bountiful Home

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Image: Henri Koskinen

This image shows Lachnum clandestinum, sometimes colorfully known as disco fungus, growing on a raspberry.

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The Sting

The Sting

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Image: Pablo Piedra

In case you ever wanted to know what a wasp’s stinger looks like in detail, here you go. This stinger is from the genus Protopolybia, commonly known as paper wasps.

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Pollen Makers

Pollen Makers

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Image: Guillermo lópez López

This shows the stamens of a Peruvian lily (Alstroemeria). Stamens are considered the male reproductive organs of a flower, which produce pollen.

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Sergeant-at-Arms

Sergeant-at-Arms

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Image: Zhigang Zheng

This stark image shows an egg from the staff sergeant butterfly (Athyma selenophora).

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Rusty Fungi

Rusty Fungi

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Image: Csaba László Pintér

This otherworldly shot shows a prospering colony of European pear rust fungus (Gymnosporangium fuscum).

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The Mouse Heart

The Mouse Heart

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Image: Aurelia Mapps

Here’s an adult mouse heart in its entirety, including some of the many blood vessels leading to and away from it.

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Spore Storage

Spore Storage

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Image: Michael Landgrebe

Though this might look like a video game enemy, it’s actually the sporangium of a species of moss. This capsule-like structure is where plants and fungi produce and store their spores.

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Zebrafish Ahoy

Zebrafish Ahoy

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Image: Layra G. Cintrón-Rivera

This shows the head of a zebrafish a mere 72 hours into its development.

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The Ancient Ant

The Ancient Ant

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Image: Enrico Bonino

Cue the Jurassic Park theme song. This shows a species of winged ant encased in 20-million-year-old amber collected from the Dominican Republic.

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The Dazzling Bug

The Dazzling Bug

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Image: Yousef Al Habshi

This image shows a red speckled jewel beetle (Chrysochroa buqueti rugicollis) that’s been captured in reflected light. Even outside of a microscope, though, their heads really are a vivid shade of red.

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A Hairy Situation

A Hairy Situation

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Image: Ahmad Fauzan

This may look like some wormy menace, but it’s actually an image of a human hair that’s gotten entangled.

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A Makeup Closeup

A Makeup Closeup

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Image: Teresa Zgoda

Believe it or not, but this shows what eyeshadow looks like under 20 times magnification.

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A Timely Plant

A Timely Plant

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Image: Gabriel Fernández/Fernández Jorge Alberto

Don’t worry, this isn’t a shot of some alien whipping monster: It’s a magnified look at a four o’clock flower (Mirabilis jalapa).

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