Every year, entries in the Nikon Small World photo contest blend art and science to create stunning microscopic imagery.
This year, the winner of the contest is Daniel Castranova, assisted by Bakary Samasa while working in the lab of Brant Weinstein at the National Institutes of Health, who combined more than 350 individual images to create this dorsal view of a juvenile zebrafish.
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.
“The image is beautiful, but also shows how powerful the zebrafish can be as a model for the development of lymphatic vessels,” Castranova said in a statement. “Until 2015, we thought this type of lymphatic system only occurred in mammals. By studying them now, 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.”