A stunning photograph showing the ghostly last dance of the Danube mayfly has won the 2016 Royal Society Publishing photography competition. Now in its second year, the competition again received over 1000 entries, and winning photographer Imre Potyó faced tough competition from images showcasing a wide range of the Earth’s complex ecosystems and environments.

All of the winners, runners up and specially commended photographs are included below, and can also be viewed here at the Royal Society in a special free exhibition on 17th and 18th September and on our online gallery.


After a few decades, the Danube mayfly (Ephoron virgo) have returned to the river Danube, probably due to the increasing water quality. The fantastic mass swarming of these mayflies is one of the most exciting phenomenon for me. My image was taken in a dark, near-natural bank of Rába river (a tributary of the Danube) with long exposure, flash and flashlight. Unfortunately, the lamp-lit bridges have negative influence to them, because they are attracted to the lamps, become exhausted, lay their eggs to the asphalt roads of the bridge and perish immediately. The team of the Danube Research Institute in cooperation with the Environmental Optics Laboratory plan to solve this biooptical and environmental problem. This image is very precious to me as I can draw the attention to these spectacular water insects and their complex ecological light trap, which endanger their survival. Rába river, Hungary. Nikon D90, Sigma 17-70 mm, f/2.8-4.5 1.3 sec, f/14, ISO 800, 17 mm.

Imre Potyó: Dancing with stars – Overall winner and Winner: Behaviour



Tane Sinclair-Taylor: In a world without colour – Winner: Ecology and Environmental Biology



María Carbajo Sánchez: In balance – Winner: Micro imaging



Nick Robertson-Brown: Departing eagle ray – Winner: Evolutionary Biology



Jonathan Diaz-Marba: In search of food – Runner up: Behaviour



Tyler Square: The spiralled snake axis – Runner up: Micro imaging



Tegwen Gadais: Les artistes – Runner up: Ecology and Environmental Biology



Fredrik Pleijel: Polychaetous worm with engine and wagons – Runner up: Evolutionary Biology



Alexandre Bonnefoy: Fubuki (snow storm) – Special commendation



Mark Cowan: Butterflies and caiman – Special commendation



Claire Collins: Carbon nanotube jellyfish – Special commendation



Prasenjeet Yadav: Speeding divergence – Special commendation (Publisher’s choice)


The competition is a collaborative project run by all of the Royal Society’s biological science journals: Biology Letters, Interface, Open Biology, Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B, Proceedings of the Royal Society B and Royal Society Open Science. The competition was judged on a dual criteria of aesthetic beauty and scientific interest by a panel of judges: Alex Badyaev, David Maitland, Ulrike Muller and Claire Spottiswoode. For more information about the Royal Society Publishing photography competition, and to view all of the shortlisted photographs please visit https://royalsociety.org/journals/publishing-activities/photo-competition/.


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