Behind the image: Incredible antennae

Bernardo Segura captured this unbelievable close-up of a firefly beetle on the lookout for females to mate with. As the Behavioral and Physiological Ecology section winner in this year’s BMC Ecology Image Competition, find out more about the story behind the photo in this Q+A.

Bernardo has been passionate about nature, from the simplest protista to the largest carnivore, since childhood. He completed a M.Sc. thesis in the ecology of the Coccinellidae (lady beetle) at the Universidad de Chile, and has participated in other research regarding forest dynamics and the diversity of bryophytes in the forest canopy among other subjects.

I feel that there is so much beauty in nature and most people just don’t pay attention to it.

Bernardo told us “I find in photography a way to share what I see, my personal view of nature, with other people. I feel that there is so much beauty in nature and most people just don’t pay attention to it.

“You don’t have to be in a tropical rainforest to see stunning animals and interact with them, you just have to pay attention, even in the garden of your own home.”

And the image Bernardo sent us of the firefly, Vesta cincticollis, for the image competition certainly captured our attention. But what is the need for those incredible antennae? Here, Bernardo explains more.

This close-up image shows the insects characteristics in great detail, particularly those fascinating antennae. Could you tell us more about this species and how those antennae are used?

This species is a beetle from the Lampyridae family, Vesta cincticollis. It is a male which is using those incredible looking and sensitive antenna to find females by ‘smelling’ their pheromones.

How did you take this photo without disturbing the insect?

I saw the small beetle standing on a rock; it was very small, only about 1cm long. And luckily it was concentrating on looking for any pheromones in the air, so it allowed me to get very close without the beetle reacting to me.  I used a Nikon D7100 with a Tokina Macro lens, this equipment allowed me to take sharp photos without getting too close.

Where were you when you took this photograph?

I took the photo in Altos de Cantillana, a mountain strip near Santiago, Chile. It is an amazing place and surprisingly well conserved despite being so close to Santiago.

What about this scene particularly interested you?

I think the best part of the photo is the huge antennae of the beetle, and I also like that the aesthetic value of the photo which could teach something about the natural history of the species.

What inspired your research in this field?

I’m passionate about natural history, especially from arthropods. It is a field that can give us an incredible amount of reliable information. For the majority of arthropod species there is only a couple of localities known about it, and nothing about its life, not even the most basic information about its marvellous life, so every little piece of information about a species is gold for me.

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