At first glance this photograph of Heron Reef, in the southernmost section of the Great Barrier Reef, looks somewhat unremarkable, uninteresting even. Look just a little longer, though, and the octopus hiding in plain sight will become clear.
The image was taken by University of Queensland postdoctoral student Michelle Achlatis, who is undertaking research with UQ’s Coral Reef Ecosystems lab, focused on metabolic dynamics of coral reef bioerosion. Healthy coral reefs, she says, are the underwater equivalent of tropical rainforests: they teem with life, sometimes conspicuously, other times a little harder to spot, “like this octopus that pretended to be a coral as I approached it”.
Achlatis’s photograph is the editor’s pick in the 2017 BMC Ecology Image Competition. It’s a reminder, says one of the online journal’s editors, Michel Baguette, of how integrated different species are within coral ecosystems. “This octopus, so beautifully adapted to its environment, could clearly not survive outside this habitat.”
BMC Ecology established the competition, now in its fifth year, to give ecologists the chance to share their research and photographic skills, and celebrate the intersection of art and science. The eight winning photographs show the diversity of ecology as a field of research.