Colourful images of plants and animals so tiny that their beauty is rarely noticed are among the Canadian scientific artworks recognized in this year's Nikon Small World Photomicrography Competition.

Robin Young of the University of British Columbia in Vancouver was the top Canadian finisher in the 2011 competition, capturing fourth place with a fluorescence microscope closeup of a liverwort, a small, primitive plant.

The winners of the 37th annual contest, which honours images captured with a light microscope, were announced earlier in October.

First prize went to Igor Siwanociwcz of Madison, Wisc., for a portrait of a common green lacewing, an insect just 1.3 millimetres long. The lacewing became his subject after it landed on him and chomped down on his skin.

This year's contest received entries from almost 70 countries around the world. The entries were judged by a panel of two scientists and two members of the media who specialize in covering science.

The entrants who had the top 20 images received gift certificates towards the purchase of Nikon equipment.

Pedro Barrios-Perez of the National Research Council of Canada's Institute for Microstructural Sciences in Ottawa was awarded a commemorative print for receiving an honourable mention in the contest. His closeup of a semiconductor wafer resembles a landscape in a Japanese woodblock print.

Two Canadians had their work highlighted as "images of distinction." Willard Strong of Oyama, B.C., was honoured for a steromicroscopic image of a swallowtail butterfly pupa, while Young received a second citation for another liverwort image — the delicate, geometric asexual reproductive organ of a species called Lunularia cruciata.

The 2012 contest is accepting entries until April 30.