A stunning image of a bat fetus produced by University of Northern Colorado Professor
Rick Adams is circulating widely online after placing 15th out of 2,000 entries submitted
from 88 countries in Nikon’s annual Small World contest.
The contest’s top 20 photographs have been featured in the international media, including
The Daily Mail, The Washington Post, The New York Times, Bing.com, The Atlantic, YAHOO
Sports, The Guardian, Greenwich Sentinel, and many more. His photograph will also
be part of the Nikon Small World Exhibition that travels to museums and art galleries.
Adams, a foremost authority on bats, took the photo using an Olympus dissection microscope
with an Olympus digital camera. He used red-and-blue dyes on the third-trimester fetus
of the flying fox fruit bat. He then removed the pigmentation with rubbing alcohols
to produce a see-through specimen similar to a 3-D, color X-ray. The backlighting
technique he added is called “dark field” photomicroscopy.
“This is part of a study on the development of wings in bats as a surrogate for understanding
how a ‘standard issue’ mammalian embryo evolved wings, giving rise to bats 55 million
years ago,” Adams said.
Adams’s artwork has previously been featured on the cover of the Journal of Anatomy
and in his award-winning book Bats of the Rocky Mountain West and on the cover of
his 2013 book, Into the Night. For previous research, he used high-speed video cameras
to discover that bats flap their tail membrane like a wing to produce potentially
important thrust during takeoffs and a very recent article in PLoS ONE (2017) showed
that flying fox fruit bats walk and climb like primates, thereby distinguishing them
from other bats and bringing into question their previously designated evolutionary
For more about his lab, visit his website.