OCTO-SPOT - Can you spot the octopus in this award-winning picture from the BMC Ecology Image Competition?

Other pictures from Antarctica to winning shot of turtles in Brazil



It looks like an ordinary coral reef... until you spot the large eye in the middle.

Hidden in plain sight is a gigantic octopus, having changed colour to blend into its surroundings with the most amazing accuracy.

The picture was taken on the iconic Great Barrier Reef and has been chosen as the Editor's Pick in the BMC Ecology Image Competition 2017.

Dominique Mazzi , editor of the journal's Australia section, said: "The image seems to present a coral reef surprisingly lacking in animal life.

"That is until you notice the large octopus hidden in plain sight. If you are having trouble finding it, look for the eye exactly in the middle of the picture."

The photographer was Greek-born Michelle Achlatis, a PhD student at the Coral Reef Ecosystems Lab at the University of Queensland.

Another editor Michel Baguette added: "The picture is a reminder of how integrated the different species are within coral ecosystems; this octopus, so beautifully adapted to its environment, could clearly not survive outside this habitat."

Renowned as one of the most intelligent creatures of the animal kingdom, the octopus has been likened to an alien form of life with its eight tentacles and huge eyes.

It can change colour and texture in, well, the blink of an eye to either avoid predators or hunt prey.

The underwater equivalent of tropical rainforests, healthy reefs teem with life.

The complex three-dimensional framework provides a sheltered habitat and ideal disguise for the octopus, which pretended to be coral.

The other winning pictures include elephant shrew, Tibetan antelope and the 'two towers of Antarctica', which resemble a 'scene out of Lord of the Rings'.

The overall winning image by Ana Carolina Lima, University of Aveiro, Portugal, is a photo of giant South American turtles.

The picture was taken in one of the most important areas of conservation for this species - the Cantao State Park, in Tocantins, Brazil.

It is located in one of the 25 biodiversity hotspots of the world; the Cerrardo, the largest savannah in South America.

Guest judge Chris Darimont, of the University of Victoria, Canada, said: "This image provides a rare, multi-layered perspective from above. The photo is well composed, technically sound, and rich with wonderful geometry".

The winner was chosen from 127 entries. There were two overall runners up and winners from five categories.

These included Community, Population and Macroecology; Behavioral Ecology and Physiology; Conservation Ecology and Biodiversity; Landscape Ecology and Ecosystems - and the Editor's Pick.

First runner-up was the 'Two Towers' depicting the tranquil and frozen East Antarctic sea ice landscape showing off its amazing pink skies and fantastic icebergs.

Photographer Christin Sawstrom, of Edith Cowan University, Western Australia, said: "During my PhD I spent over a year at Davis station in the Australian Antarctic Territory doing research on two freshwater lakes in the oasis known as the Vestfold Hills.

"I was lucky to capture these 'two towers' and the striking moon on a sea ice trip near the Davis station."

Another runner up image by Roberto Garcia-Roa from the University of Valencia, Spain, shows a predatory spider, camouflaged by the white plant on which it hunts, which has caught a large bee that is also being attacked by a parasitic fly.

Highly commended images include a photo of a Galapagos sea lion dozing in the sand, a well-disguised Malaysian orchid mantis, and an aerial view of the Sado River estuary in southern Portugal.

Now in its fifth year, the BMC Ecology Image competition was created to give ecologists the chance to share their research and photographic skills, and celebrate the intersection of art and science.

Chris Foote, editor at the BMC series, said: "We were delighted at the variety and quality of the images submitted to the 2017 Image Competition.

"Having the input of respected scientists as our judges ensures our winning images are picked as much for the scientific story behind them as for the technical quality and beauty of the images themselves.

"As such, the competition very much reflects BMC's ethos of innovation, curiosity and integrity.

"We thank all those who took part in this year's competition, and congratulate our winning photographers; we hope our readers enjoyed their work as much as we have."


Video by: Sarah Mundy Video by: Sarah Mundy