Behind the Image: a bug’s life

Observant and alert, this little guy appears ready for orders. Maïlis Huguin tells us the story behind her image, the winner of the Behavioral Ecology category in this year's BMC Ecology Image Competition.

What is your profession?

I have a Masters in behavioral ecology, biodiversity, and evolution and have been a research engineer since 2014.

What type of research are you involved in?

Basically, I was trained in entomology, but in my job I mostly work on Neotropical mammals in French Guiana. I work from the field sessions to the laboratory, capturing and sampling of animals, and then molecular biology, population genetics, and taxonomy.

Why did you become interested in this area of research?

This area of research is interesting for me because I am very involved in ecological and conservation issues, which are a priority. Moreover, the alternation of the field and the laboratory, as well as a few projects beside, means that there is no routine.

How did you become interested in photography?

I started ten years ago. Passionate about insects, it was already a good way to explore this macro-universe and to discover details and fabulous texture. it is also a way to raise public awareness to the ecological cause, and highlight the gorgeousness of insects so unloved. Finally, it is a good excuse to be in nature…

Where and how was this photo taken?

This photo was taken in a rainforest in French Guiana with a Canon 7D and a 100mm f/2.8 macro. I never use a flash, even in the dark forest I prefer keeping my ability to move, using natural light and increasing ISO if necessary.

Why were you there at the time?

I was involved in a capture field session of little mammals (rodents and marsupials) in the context of wildlife inventories. I always look to see if there are any interesting pictures to take, and this day, it was an ant!

Can you explain a bit more about the image?

We can see an Ant of genus Ectatomma who is wide-awake and standing on a leaf.

What about this scene particularly interested you?

This behavior is always interesting to observe because it shows the close mutualist relationship that exists between ants and myrmecophile plants: here, the host plant secretes nectar via specialized structures called domaties to feed ants and in exchange these ants protect the plant from predators. That is why, when the ant feels threatened, it takes a defensive position.

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