Developing Sensory Nervous System of a Zebrafish Wins 2018 Nikon Small World in Motion Competition

Nikon Instruments announces the winners of eighth annual competition and shares the wonders of the unseen microscopic universe

MELVILLE, N.Y., Sept. 27, 2018 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Nikon Instruments Inc. today unveiled the winners of the eighth annual Nikon Small World in Motion Photomicrography Competition. First place was awarded to Dr. Elizabeth Haynes and Jiaye "Henry" He for their video of a zebrafish embryo growing its elaborate sensory nervous system. The video reflects a time lapse of 16 hours and uses gentle light sheet technology to capture the whole zebrafish embryo in 3D, at a high temporal resolution. Dr. Haynes studies the role of kinesin light chain genes during the highly complex development of sensory neurons, while Mr. He specializes on developing microscopy technology to image living specimens at the best possible resolution.   

“There are many kinesin light chain genes and their individual roles are poorly understood,” said Dr. Haynes. “If we can learn what changes in axon growth may occur when different kinesin light chain genes are perturbed, we can better understand their functions in the development of neurons, and their potential roles in neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer's disease.” 

To film the developing embryo, Dr. Haynes and Mr. He chose to let the zebrafish embryo grow in water, where it develops naturally inside their home-built microscope. This is a much more challenging approach as the specimen could easily move out of the field of view. The conventional technique of mounting the zebrafish in a block of gel restricts the growth of the embryo, which can impact the development of the neurons and result in a less accurate study. 

“This year’s video represents exactly the kind of cutting edge scientific imaging we strive to showcase in the Nikon Small World in Motion competition,” said Eric Flem, Communications Manager, Nikon Instruments, “As microscope and imaging technologies advance, we are seeing scientifically relevant events better than ever before in visually beautiful detail.”

Dr. Haynes added, “I hope people see this video and understand how much we share with other organisms in terms of our development. A neuron is a neuron, and it’s really amazing how most of the time development goes right when so much could go wrong. There is so much art occurring within science and nature, and it’s really special to watch.” 

This year’s second place winner moves from the biological world and into the physical one. Captured by Dr. Miguel A. Bandres, the video shows a laser propagating inside a soap membrane. The video uniquely captures a lot of physical phenomena, including the 
interference of light in the soap membrane, allowing the audience to see the variations in the thickness of the membrane as well as a beautiful pattern of colors.

In third place, what looks like a microbe playing a musical instrument is actually a polychaete worm digesting, captured by Mr. Rafael Martín-Ledo. The worm makes movements with its parapodes and its setae displace the dorsal blood vessel, raising intriguing biological questions about the association between the movements of the animal and its blood dynamics.
In addition to top five winners, Nikon Small World in Motion recognized an additional eighteen entries.

The 2018 judging panel included:

  • Dr. Joseph Fetcho: Professor, Associate Chair of the Department of Neurobiology and Behavior at Cornell University.
  • Dr. Tristan Ursell: Assistant Professor in the Department of Physics and at the Institute of Molecular Biology at the University of Oregon.
  • Adam Dunnakey: Broadcast journalist at CNN International.
  • Jacob Templin: Senior video producer at Quartz.
  • Eric Clark (Moderator): Research Coordinator and Applications Developer at the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory at Florida State University.

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

Dr. Elizabeth M. Haynes & Jiaye "Henry" He
University of Wisconsin-Madison, Department of Integrative Biology & Morgridge Institute for Research
Madison, Wisconsin, USA
Zebrafish embryo growing its elaborate sensory nervous system (visualized over 16 hours of development)
Selective Plane Illumination Microscopy (SPIM)        
10x (objective lens magnification)

Dr. Miguel A. Bandres & Anatoly Patsyk
Technicon – Israel Institute of Technology Department of Physics
Haifa, Israel
Laser propagating inside a soap membrane
Reflected Light Epi-Illumination
2x, 5x (objective lens magnification)

Rafael Martín-Ledo
Conserjería Educación Gobierno de Cantabria
Santander, Cantabria, Spain
Polychaete worm of the Syllidae family
Differential Interference Contrast (DIC)
20x, 40x (objective lens magnification)

Dr. Wim van Egmond
Micropolitan Museum
Berkel en Rodenrijs, The Netherlands
Daphnia water flea giving birth
6x (objective lens magnification)

Dr. Jia Chao Wang
National Institutes of Health (NIH) Cell Biology and Physiology Center, National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute
Bethesda, Maryland, USA
The dynamics of the actin cell skeleton in a mouse B lymphocyte after it has been activated
Structured Illumination Microscopy coupled with Total Internal Reflection
60x (objective lens magnification)

Honorable Mentions
Güray Dere
Istanbul, Turkey
Stinkbug (shieldbug) eggs hatching
Reflected Light
5x (objective lens magnification)
Dr. Fernan Federici, Daniel Nuñez, Tamara Matute, Isaac Nuñez, Juan Keymer, Janneke Noorlag, Leslie Garcia & Paloma Lopez
Pontificia Universidad Catolica de Chile, Genetica Molecular & Microbiologia
Santiago, Chile
Paenibacillus bacteria collective motility on solid media
Transmitted Light
4x (objective lens magnification)

Frank Fox
Trier University of Applied Sciences
Konz, Rheinland-Pfalz, Germany
Microstomum lineare (aquatic worm)
Darkfield, Transmitted Light
10x (objective lens magnification)

Frank Fox
Trier University of Applied Sciences
Konz, Rheinland-Pfalz, Germany
Green Stentor coeruleus and Vorticella
Interference Contrast
25x (objective lens magnification)

Ralph Claus Grimm
Jimboomba, Queensland, Australia
Oscillatoria (filamentous cyanobacteria)
Differential Interference Contrast (DIC)
10x, 40x (objective lens magnification)

Thomas E. Jones
Explore Microscopy
Crestline, California, USA
Stephanoceros fimbriatus (rotifer) feeding
Differential Interference Contrast (DIC)
10x, 20x (objective lens magnification)

Charles Krebs
Charles Krebs Photography
Issaquah, Washington, USA
Nitella sp. (green algae), cytoplasmic streaming
Brightfield, Differential Interference Contrast (DIC)
5x, 10x, 40x (objective lens magnification)

Dr. Philippe P. Laissue
University of Essex, School of Biological Sciences
Colchester, Essex, United Kingdom
Polyps of a reef-building staghorn coral (coral tissue is green, the algae inside it orange)
Differential Interference Contrast (DIC), Autofluorescence, Focus Stacking
4x (objective lens magnification)

Dr. Aleksandra Mandic
EPFL École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne
Lausanne, Vaud, Switzerland
Monolayer of mouse pre-adipocytes imaged over 48 hours (1 image per minute)
60x (objective lens magnification)

Rafael Martín-Ledo
Conserjería Educación Gobierno de Cantabria
Santander, Cantabria, Spain
Opechona sp. (fluke) larva
Differential Interference Contrast (DIC)
10x (objective lens magnification)

Rafael Martín-Ledo
Conserjería Educación Gobierno de Cantabria
Santander, Cantabria, Spain
Zoothamnium pelagicum (marine ciliate)
Differential Interference Contrast (DIC), Phase Contrast
10x, 20x (objective lens magnification)

Dr. Tessa Montague
Harvard University, Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology
Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA
Xenopus laevis (African clawed frog) egg recently fertilized by sperm (sped up ~10x)

Wojtek Plonka
Krakow, Malopolskie, Poland
Soy sauce evaporating
4x (objective lens magnification)

Dr. Adolfo Ruiz de Segovia
Madrid, Spain
Pocket watch mechanism
Reflected Light
4x (objective lens magnification)

Dr. Shinji Shimode
Yokohama National University, Manazuru Marine Center
Manazuru-machi, Kanagawa, Japan
Oratosquilla oratorio (Japanese mantis shrimp) larva
Transmitted Light, Relief Illumination
4x-6x (objective lens magnification)

Bill Shin
National Institutes of Health (NIH)
Bethesda, Maryland, USA
Chromatophores (pigment-containing and light-reflecting cells) in squid mantle
4x (objective lens magnification)

Dr. Jeffrey A.J. van Haren
UCSF, Wittmann Lab
Department of Cell and Tissue Biology
San Francisco, California, USA
Labeling of the microtubule cytoskeleton in a human cell line
Spinning Disk Confocal
60x (objective lens magnification)

Dr. Bruno Vellutini
Max Planck Institute of Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics
Dresden, Saxony, Germany
Fruit fly embryo viewed from four angles
Light Sheet Fluorescence Microscopy
20x (objective lens magnification)

Philippe Verwaerde
Santes, France
Spirostomum ambiguum, Frontonia leucas and Dexiotricha granulosa (ciliate protozoa)
Differential Interference Contrast (DIC)
25x (objective lens magnification)

Sixian You, Dr. Stephen A. Boppart, Dr. Haohua Tu, & Eric J. Chaney
Affiliation University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Department of Bioengineering
Urbana, Illinois, USA
Leukocyte (white blood cell) swarming near tumor site
Simultaneous label-free autofluorescence-multiharmonic (SLAM) microscopy
40x (objective lens magnification)

Teresa Zgoda
Campbell Hall, New York, USA
Light refracted by cilia on ctenophores (comb jellies)
5x-30x (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 2019 Small World and Small World in Motion Competitions are available at

About Nikon Instruments Inc.
Nikon Instruments Inc. is a world leader in the development and manufacture of optical and digital imaging technology for biomedical applications. Nikon provides complete optical systems that offer optimal versatility, performance and productivity. Cutting-edge instruments include microscopes, digital imaging products and software. Nikon Instruments is one of the microscopy and digital imaging arms of Nikon Inc., the world leader in digital imaging, precision optics and photo imaging technology. For more information, visit Product-related inquiries may be directed to Nikon Instruments at 800-52-NIKON.

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