You can almost hear the bees buzzing as you look at a stunning new image of a ball of plush, yellow cactus bees tumbling over each other on the hot sand of a Texas ranch.
The photo has taken first place in this year’s Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition, curated by London’s Natural History Museum, meaning the photographer who captured the buzzing bees, Karine Aigner, won the big title of Wildlife Photographer of the Year . Other winning images included a photo of a whale’s jaws opening wide to reveal the thick “hair” the animal uses to filter food, and a shot of a spawning starfish floating underwater, suspended in a shimmering cloud of sperm and eggs. in partial light.
More than 38,500 entries from 93 countries were submitted to this year’s competition and judged on their originality, narrative, technical excellence and ethical practice in photography, according to statement (opens in new tab) from the museum. From these thousands of photos, a panel of experts selected 19 snaps that stood out as winners in the category that “showcase the natural world in all its wonder and diversity.”
Winning photos and runners-up can be viewed at the museum online gallery (opens in new tab) or in person at the Natural History Museum (opens in new tab), at an exhibition opening on Friday (October 14). Below, you can read about Live Science’s five favorite photos of the bunch.
Related: These could be the funniest animal photos ever
The big buzz
American photographer Karine Aigner captured this bee-filled cactus (Diadasia rinconis) in May, as soon as the male bees emerged from their brood burrows to mate. A female is hidden in the center of the buzzing orb. all other bees pictured are males competing for the opportunity to mate with the female.
“The sense of movement and tension appears zoomed in at the bee level and turns small cactus bees into large competitors for a single female,” said Rosamund “Roz” Kidman Cox, jury chair, author and editor. museum announcement.
The beauty of baleen
Sixteen-year-old Katanyou Wutticaitanakorn from Thailand won Young Wildlife Photographer of the Year for his entry in the competition’s youth section, open to those aged 17 and under. His photo, taken in the Gulf of Thailand, shows the mouth of a Bryde’s whale (Balaenoptera edeni bridei), a species of whale that carries up to 370 pairs of plates in its upper jaws. Whales use these brush-like plates to filter small prey from the ocean water.
“I love how the young man went off the beaten path to show a whale in a completely different composition while capturing behavior like filter feeding,” said Sugandhi Gadadhar, director and wildlife judge. statement (opens in new tab). “And this, coming from a young photographer, gives me hope that they don’t just see, but notice the very small details, learning a lot along the way.”
Taken by Fernando Constantino Martínez Belmar from Mexico, this incredible photo shows a Yucatan rat snake (Pseudelaphe phaescens) grabbing a bat out of the air. The snake had been waiting in the aptly named Cave of Hanging Snakes, located near the village of Kantemó in the state of Quintana Roo on the Yucatán Peninsula. Every day at sunset, thousands of bats come out of the cave to feed and snakes hang from the cracks in the cave ceiling, hoping to catch a passing bat and swallow it whole.
Tony Wu of the US and Japan captured this image of a giant starfish (Pisaster Giganteus) “dancing” in a nebula-like cloud of eggs and sperm in Japan’s Kinko Bay. The starfish’s undulating motion may help propel the eggs and sperm into the current, where they can collide and be fertilized, according to statement (opens in new tab).
“This image reminds me of something out of a science fiction movie,” Natalie Cooper, principal investigator at the Museum and judge, said in the statement. “It’s a technically brilliant picture, with an intense air of mystery that draws you in.”
Ndakasi passes by
Brent Stirton of South Africa commemorated the death of a mountain gorilla (Gorilla beringei beringei) named Ndakasi, which had been rescued in 2007 after its entire army was killed by a “coal mafia”, a criminal group involved in the illegal charcoal trade. Here, Ndakasi is pictured in Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where ranger Andre Bauma, her rescuer and caretaker of 13 years, is staying.
“It was Ndakasi’s sweet nature and intelligence that helped me understand the relationship between people and [other] great apes and why we must do everything in our power to protect them,” Bauma told a statement (opens in new tab).