Extraordinary photos reveal the secret kingdom of the soil

Nell Lewis

An animal grazes, oblivious to another tracking it silently from behind. The predator waits for the perfect moment, then pounces. It’s over in a flash.

It’s a scene most of us might associate with an open savannah in a nature documentary, but photographer Andy Murray is watching the drama unfold from his back garden in Somerset, UK. He’s on his knees, staring through a loupe (a small magnifying glass) as a 6-millimeter-long pseudoscorpion takes out a springtail more than half its size.

To Murray, these microscopic soil animals are as fascinating as the lions and zebras you might see on safari – just far more accessible, if you know where to look.

“They live in this tiny world; it works like our world, it’s just on a really small scale,” he tells CNN. “If you watch it long enough, you can see the same things go on: you can see hunters and the hunted, you can see grazing animals, you see bizarre and funny interactions.”

And your chances of seeing some form of soil life, albeit through a magnifying glass, are high. According to a recent study published in the journal PNAS, more than half of all species live in the soil, making it the most species-rich habitat on Earth.

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