When you're looking at the world through a microscope, appearances can be deceptive. Vegetables look like minerals, and tiny creatures look like alien invaders. Just check out the incredibly gorgeous winners of this year's Nikon Small World microphotography competition.

Here are just a few of our favorites from among this year's winners, which illuminate the amazing beauty at microscopic sizes, and help us understand the tiny systems that keep our world functioning. Check out the rest over at the link. [Nikon Small World via Wired]

The year's strangest, most beautiful visions of the microverseS


Duane Harland, Ctenocephalides canis (flea) (20X)

The year's strangest, most beautiful visions of the microverseS


Jonas King, Anopheles gambiae (mosquito) heart (100X) (First place winner)

The year's strangest, most beautiful visions of the microverseS


Cameron Johnson,
Wistar rat retina outlining the retinal vessel network and associated communication channels (100X)

The year's strangest, most beautiful visions of the microverseS


Laurence Dubreil, Cryosection of rat skeletal muscle (20X)

The year's strangest, most beautiful visions of the microverseS


Robert Berdan, Trout alevin (larva) (10X)

The year's strangest, most beautiful visions of the microverseS


Christian Gautier, Porpita porpita (blue button) tentacle (50X)

The year's strangest, most beautiful visions of the microverseS


Hideo Otsuna, 5-day old zebrafish head (20X)

The year's strangest, most beautiful visions of the microverseS


Christian Gautier, Toad ova injected, mounted in lacto-phenol (50X)

The year's strangest, most beautiful visions of the microverseS


Gregory Rouse, Juvenile bivalve mollusc, Lima sp. (10X)

The year's strangest, most beautiful visions of the microverseS

James Nicholson, Orange Fungia (mushroom coral), live specimen (166X)

The year's strangest, most beautiful visions of the microverseS


Rachel Berry, E16.5 mouse scan utilizing autofluorescence on 3 wavelengths showing mouse vasculature (1.25X)

The year's strangest, most beautiful visions of the microverseS


Fabrice Parais, Trichoptera Hydropsyche angustipennis (caddisfly) larva, posterior claws (30X)

The year's strangest, most beautiful visions of the microverseS


Charles Krebs, Ichneumon wasp compound eye and antenna base (40X)

The year's strangest, most beautiful visions of the microverseS


J. Claire Hoving, Anisakis pegreffi (parasitic worm) (40X)

The year's strangest, most beautiful visions of the microverseS

Slobodan Beronja, Hair follicles in a newborn mouse (cyan) transduced with a lentivirus (magenta) (600X)

The year's strangest, most beautiful visions of the microverseS


Yongli Shan, Endothelial cell attached to synthetic microfibers, stained with microtubules, F-actin and nuclei (2500X)

The year's strangest, most beautiful visions of the microverseS


Stephen Nagy, M.D., Craspedodiscus coscinodiscus Ehrenberg (extinct marine diatom) (1440X)

The year's strangest, most beautiful visions of the microverseS

Jim Wetzel, Oryzias latipes (Japanese medaka) embryo, live mount (150X)

The year's strangest, most beautiful visions of the microverseS

Paul D. Andrews, Telophase HeLa (cancer) cells expressing Aurora B-EGFP (green) (100X)

The year's strangest, most beautiful visions of the microverseS


Edwin Lee, Senecio vulgaris (common groundsel) seed with ectomycorrhizal hyphae of a soil fungus (100X)

The year's strangest, most beautiful visions of the microverse

Stefanie Eisenbach, 72 hour chick embryo, dissected from the yolk (40X)

The year's strangest, most beautiful visions of the microverse


Christian Gautier, Tortula papillosa (moss) (20X)

The year's strangest, most beautiful visions of the microverseS

Juan Carlos Izpisúa, Mouse embryo stem cells surrounded by trophectoderm cells (63X)

The year's strangest, most beautiful visions of the microverse

Honorio Cocera-La Parra, Cacoxenite (mineral) (18X)