A three-spined horseshoe crab sliding to the bottom of the sea allowed Laurent Ballesta to win the title of Wildlife Photographer of the Year for the second time.
Horseshoe crabs have survived for more than 100 million years, but now face habitat destruction and overfishing as they are captured for food and for their blue blood, used in vaccines.
Mr Ballesta, a French underwater photographer and marine biologist, found the creature, which dates from prehistoric times, in the waters of Pangatalan Island in the Philippines, a known haven for crabs. He is accompanied in the winning shot by three golden trevally.
Kath Moran, president of the jury, described the winning photo as “luminescent”.
She said: “Seeing a horseshoe crab so alive in its natural habitat, in such a haunting way, was astonishing.
Laurent Ballesta, a French underwater photographer and marine biologist, won the Natural History Museum’s Wildlife Photographer of the Year award after capturing this image of a horseshoe crab in the waters of Pangatalan Island in the Philippines.
‘Whales make waves’, a pod of orcas as they prepare to ‘wave wash’ a Weddell seal on the Antarctic Peninsula, Antarctica, by Bertie Gregory, UK
“Hippo Nursery”, a hippo and her two calves resting in the clear shallow lake of Kosi Bay, iSimangaliso Wetland Park, South Africa, by Mike Korostelev from Russia
“Life on the Edge,” of two Nubian ibexes in the Zin Desert, Israel, by Amit Eshel of Israel
“Alpine exhibition”, of an ibex in the snow at the Vercors Regional Natural Park, Rhône-Alpes, France by Luca Melcarne, from France
“Silence for the spectacle of the serpent”, gray-winged trumpeters watching a boa pass at the Center Spatial Guyanais, between Kourou and Sinnamary, French Guiana, by Hadrien Lalague, of France
“We are looking at an ancient species, highly endangered and also essential to human health.”
Mr. Ballesta is only the second person to win the Natural History Museum competition twice in its 59-year history.
His first award was in 2021 for a photo of groupers camouflaged in a swirl of eggs and sperm in Fakarava, French Polynesia.
The Young Wildlife Photographer of the Year award went to Carmel Bechler from Israel, for photographing several barn owls in a dug-out concrete building on the side of a road.
He used his family’s car as a cover with long exposure times to capture the light trails of passing traffic.
The 17-year-old said: “I hope to share through my photography that the beauty of the natural world is all around us, even in the places we least expect it – we just need to open our eyes and the mind. ‘
The winning photographs were selected from 49,957 original entries from 95 countries and were announced at an awards ceremony in South Kensington on Tuesday.
Among the other 17 winners in the category was an orca stranded in the Netherlands, photographed by Lennart Verheuvel, which was later found to be malnourished and ill, possibly due to PCB contamination.
‘The Wall of Wonders’, of an ornamental tree trunk spider preventing its prey from escaping at the Nallur Heritage Tamarind Grove, Karnataka, India, by Vihaan Talya Vikas, from India
“The Banquet of the Tadpoles”, toad tadpoles feast on a dead sparrow in Ojen, Malaga, Spain, by Juan Jesus Gonzalez Ahumada, from Spain
“Owls’ road house,” in Hof HaSharon, Israel, shot by Carmel Bechler, 17, from Israel, won the Young Wildlife Photographer of the Year award.
Face of the Forest’, of a lowland tapir at Tapirai, Sao Paulo, Brazil, India, by Vishnu Gopal, from India
“Fantastic Lights,” of a night sky and forest lit with fireflies in the Anamalai Tiger Reserve, Tamil Nadu, India, by Sriram Murali, from India
Unprotected participants line up to have their bobcats weighed during the March 2022 West Texas Big Bobcat competition, by Karine Aigner of the United States
“Last Breath”, of an orca stranded in Cadzand-Bad, Zeeland, Netherlands by Lennart Verheuvel, from the Netherlands
“Birds of the Midnight Sun”, illuminated seagull chicks in an abandoned factory in Vardo, Troms og Finnmark, Norway, by Knut-Sverre Horn, from Norway
“The Dead River”, it polluted the Ciliwung River which winds through the Indonesian capital, Jakarta, by Joan de la Malla, from Spain
‘The art of courtship’ of a pair of gannets in Noss National Nature Reserve, Shetland, by Rachel Bigsby, UK
“The tourist bulldozer”, from the route of a new tourist railway line in Paamul, Quintana Roo, Mexico, by Fernando Constantino Martinez Belmar, from Mexico
“Last Breath of Autumn”, of a mushroom releasing its spores in the forest of Mount Olympus, Pieria, Greece, by Agorastos Papatsanis, from Greece
Poisoning caused by this industrial chemical is common in European waters, although the chemical was banned decades ago. Its unique properties allow it to accumulate throughout the food chain.
Agorastos Papatsanis revealed how the parasol mushroom releases its spores to drift on air currents in search of new places to grow in its native Greece on Mount Olympus, capturing the colorful refraction of the light through the rain.
An illuminated forest in Tamil Nadu, India, won the Behavior: Invertebrates prize, with Sriram Murali showing how fireflies attract mates by combining 50 19-second exposures with 16 minutes of beetle bioluminescence.
Two Nubian ibexes locking horns during a cliffside standoff in Israel were captured by Amit Eshel as he crept toward the fighting males, who were butting heads during mating season in a competition of prowess physical.
Dr Doug Gurr, Director of the Natural History Museum, said: “While inspiring absolute respect and wonder, this year’s winning images present compelling evidence of our impact on nature – both positive and negative .
“Global promises must turn into action to reverse the trend of nature decline.”
Next year, the Natural History Museum will celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Wildlife Photographer of the Year award with new awards and a fee waiver for more than 100 countries. Applications are open from October 16.