This is the face of an ant. This monstrous, beastly, freakish mug belongs — if you can believe it — to the common house insect. And if I had to see that, so do you.
The viral photo was an entry in this year’s Small World Photomicrography competition, a contest held by Nikon that recognizes impressive microscope photography. Some entries are stunning visual odes to the unseen miniature world… while others are just plain terrifying.
Small World Photomicrography
Nikon’s Small World Competition first began in 1975 to showcase an impressive range of photos that are taken on light microscopes. Photomicrography, as it’s called, magnified image of an object which cannot be seen by the naked eye. It’s a scientific art form that can offer an illuminating view of our natural world.
This year, a picture of the hand of a Madagascar giant day gecko embryo, taken at 63x magnification, was the first-place winner. The colorful snapshot offers an up-close look at the lizard’s growing nerves and cells and bones — all still forming. It was taken by Grigorii Timin and Dr. Michel Milinkovitch.
The gecko hand an impressive feat. But it’s not the image that’s gaining the most attention. That would be the creepy ant, which looks more like an ’80s horror prop than any real-life discovery. Taken by Dr. Eugenijus Kavaliauskas, it presents the face of the bug at 5x magnification. It ranked in the competition as an Image of Distinction.
Also ranking as an Image of Distinction is this, equally horrifying, picture of a bold jumping spider at 4x magnification. It was taken by Dr. Andrew Posselt.
You can check out the full list of winners and honorable mentions here. Nikon also hosts a Small World in Motion competition for video and time-lapse photomicrography. You can view that immersive work here.