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PLOS ONE’s Spookiest Images of 2014


As we take a look back at research articles published so far in PLOS ONE in 2014, we realize we have no shortage of images to terrify our readers, or at least sufficiently creep them out long enough to last through Halloween and possibly the whole weekend. Without further ado, we present our staff picks for figures in PLOS ONE articles that we felt were eerie, ghostly, spine-chilling, corpselike, gross, nightmarish, or just plain weird!

If you enjoy these, we encourage you to comment down below with any of your other favorite, spooky PLOS ONE images from this year.

Click on any one image to see a larger version.


Where else would we begin? Those with phobias, look away!




We started off easy and only slightly creepy. The above is actually just a neat 3D model of a bug, specifically a granary weevil.




Okay, this one is definitely creepier than the last image. This is a female (top) and male (bottom) leafcutter bee at the pupal stage…just waiting to come out and say hello.




Eek. This is a fossil millipede embedded in amber, with a close dorsal view of the first segments and mid-body rings. For an overload of creepiness, check out the other figures in the paper.




What’s this?! If spiders can catch fish—they can, as this paper describes, on all continents except Antarctica—what can’t they do? Also, if spiders don’t need webs, are they all set to take over the world?




Here we have more insects in amber. In this image, an ant and a termite hang out together in the same piece of Mexican amber.




This image might look slightly unbelievable, but it shows a new species of spider wasp that may sometimes use dead ants to protect its nest. Obviously…dead ants always add a certain something to the décor, in addition to being excellent home protection!


Other species that give us the creeps




Okay, not so bad, a creepy mushroom-lookalike. What’s slightly freaky about it is that it may be a multicellular organism that does not fit into our current phylogenetic tree, which means that it may be part of a new branch of life.




Yuck. Unlike other baby animals, baby coral? Not as adorable.




Slimey goodness in the form of a vocalizing Indian purple frog.




What on Earth is happening in panel D? Lucky for him, the bioluminescent viper dogfish shark has protruding jaws it uses to capture his prey.




This is an Eurasian brown bear breaking the bones of a deer in different ways—such talent! If she could just focus all her efforts on deer and not other species (cough, cough) that would be fantastic.


Carcasses under the sea




Above is a set of carcasses, including a whale shark in the panel on the top left, is being devoured by fish in the deep sea.




What we see here, for as long as we can bear to look, are dead pigs in the deep sea, showing carcass decomposition assisted by shrimp and crab that eat them and drag them around. Yum.


Let’s put the past behind us




The first eerie image above compares the footprint of an early limbed vertebrate, a temnospondyl (right), with that of a salamander (left). Researchers showed that his walk, shown as a hypothetical in the second image, was probably a lot different from that of a salamander, with a forelimb-driven gait as opposed to the hindlimb-driven one of the latter species.




Yikes. The “ripper” behavioral model is illustrated above for a non-avian theropod dinosaur, known for having a “killing claw” used for slashing and eating prey that are still alive!




Behold a rare “bone bed” containing remnants from a newly discovered species of pterosaur. This mess of bones may indicate that the species was fairly social, outgoing, and lived in groups.


Mummies and the like


Saving the best for last, no scary image list is complete without some totally stomach-wrenching mummy pics. Enjoy!




This South American mummy was likely suffering from a disease, hit in the head, and murdered.




While not a mummy, this young individual may have suffered traumatic brain injury and was buried with two red deer antlers on its chest, a possibly unique funerary practice.




A clothes-wrapped body was found inside this coffin, which is a possible case of cherubism in a 17th-century Korean mummy.




And lastly, the above depicts three plastered skulls dating to a pre-pottery period, with the plastering process a possible representation of the shift from hunter-gathering to food-producing strategies. Scary stuff!

Happy Halloween from PLOS ONE!



Image 1: Slon V, Sarig R, Hershkovitz I, Khalaily H, Milevski I (2014) The Plastered Skulls from the Pre-Pottery Neolithic B Site of Yiftahel (Israel) – A Computed Tomography-Based Analysis. PLoS ONE 9(2): e89242. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0089242

Image 2: Nguyen CV, Lovell DR, Adcock M, La Salle J (2014) Capturing Natural-Colour 3D Models of Insects for Species Discovery and Diagnostics. PLoS ONE 9(4): e94346. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0094346

Image 3: Holden AR, Koch JB, Griswold T, Erwin DM, Hall J (2014) Leafcutter Bee Nests and Pupae from the Rancho La Brea Tar Pits of Southern California: Implications for Understanding the Paleoenvironment of the Late Pleistocene. PLoS ONE 9(4): e94724. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0094724

Image 4: Riquelme F, Hernández-Patricio M, Martínez-Dávalos A, Rodríguez-Villafuerte M, Montejo-Cruz M, et al. (2014) Two Flat-Backed Polydesmidan Millipedes from the Miocene Chiapas-Amber Lagerstätte, Mexico. PLoS ONE 9(8): e105877. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0105877

Image 5: Nyffeler M, Pusey BJ (2014) Fish Predation by Semi-Aquatic Spiders: A Global Pattern. PLoS ONE 9(6): e99459. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0099459

Image 6: Coty D, Aria C, Garrouste R, Wils P, Legendre F, et al. (2014) The First Ant-Termite Syninclusion in Amber with CT-Scan Analysis of Taphonomy. PLoS ONE 9(8): e104410. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0104410

Image 7:  Staab M, Ohl M, Zhu C-D, Klein A-M (2014) A Unique Nest-Protection Strategy in a New Species of Spider Wasp. PLoS ONE 9(7): e101592. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0101592

Image 8:  Just J, Kristensen RM, Olesen J (2014) Dendrogramma, New Genus, with Two New Non-Bilaterian Species from the Marine Bathyal of Southeastern Australia (Animalia, Metazoa incertae sedis) – with Similarities to Some Medusoids from the Precambrian Ediacara. PLoS ONE 9(9): e102976. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0102976

Image 9: Toh TC, Ng CSL, Peh JWK, Toh KB, Chou LM (2014) Augmenting the Post-Transplantation Growth and Survivorship of Juvenile Scleractinian Corals via Nutritional Enhancement. PLoS ONE 9(6): e98529. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0098529

Image 10: Thomas A, Suyesh R, Biju SD, Bee MA (2014) Vocal Behavior of the Elusive Purple Frog of India (Nasikabatrachus sahyadrensis), a Fossorial Species Endemic to the Western Ghats. PLoS ONE 9(2): e84809. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0084809

Image 11: Claes JM, Partridge JC, Hart NS, Garza-Gisholt E, Ho H-C, et al. (2014) Photon Hunting in the Twilight Zone: Visual Features of Mesopelagic Bioluminescent Sharks. PLoS ONE 9(8): e104213. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0104213

Image 12: Arilla M, Rosell J, Blasco R, Domínguez-Rodrigo M, Pickering TR (2014) The “Bear” Essentials: Actualistic Research on Ursus arctos arctos in the Spanish Pyrenees and Its Implications for Paleontology and Archaeology. PLoS ONE 9(7): e102457. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0102457

Image 13: Higgs ND, Gates AR, Jones DOB (2014) Fish Food in the Deep Sea: Revisiting the Role of Large Food-Falls. PLoS ONE 9(5): e96016. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0096016

Image 14: Anderson GS, Bell LS (2014) Deep Coastal Marine Taphonomy: Investigation into Carcass Decomposition in the Saanich Inlet, British Columbia Using a Baited Camera. PLoS ONE 9(10): e110710. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0110710

Image 15: Marsicano CA, Wilson JA, Smith RMH (2014) A Temnospondyl Trackway from the Early Mesozoic of Western Gondwana and Its Implications for Basal Tetrapod Locomotion. PLoS ONE 9(8): e103255. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0103255

Image 16: Fowler DW, Freedman EA, Scannella JB, Kambic RE (2011) The Predatory Ecology of Deinonychus and the Origin of Flapping in Birds. PLoS ONE 6(12): e28964. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0028964

Image 17: Manzig PC, Kellner AWA, Weinschütz LC, Fragoso CE, Vega CS, et al. (2014) Discovery of a Rare Pterosaur Bone Bed in a Cretaceous Desert with Insights on Ontogeny and Behavior of Flying Reptiles. PLoS ONE 9(8): e100005. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0100005

Image 18: Panzer S, Peschel O, Haas-Gebhard B, Bachmeier BE, Pusch CM, et al. (2014) Reconstructing the Life of an Unknown (ca. 500 Years-Old South American Inca) Mummy – Multidisciplinary Study of a Peruvian Inca Mummy Suggests Severe Chagas Disease and Ritual Homicide. PLoS ONE 9(2): e89528. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0089528

Image 19: Coqueugniot H, Dutour O, Arensburg B, Duday H, Vandermeersch B, et al. (2014) Earliest Cranio-Encephalic Trauma from the Levantine Middle Palaeolithic: 3D Reappraisal of the Qafzeh 11 Skull, Consequences of Pediatric Brain Damage on Individual Life Condition and Social Care. PLoS ONE 9(7): e102822. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0102822

Image 20: Hershkovitz I, Spigelman M, Sarig R, Lim D-S, Lee IS, et al. (2014) A Possible Case of Cherubism in a 17th-Century Korean Mummy. PLoS ONE 9(8): e102441. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0102441

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