For the past 55 years, the London Natural History Museum hosts an annual Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition. Seasoned professionals and dedicated amateurs alike submit entries for the contest. This year, more than 50,000 entries flooded the contest organizers, submitted by photographers in more than 100 countries. A selection of some of the best work was released today by the NHM.

The photos are, naturally, stunning, some of which are emotionally powerful images of animals fighting for, and sometimes losing, their lives, while others show the delicate and quiet moments of life in the natural world. Judges decide winners based on “creativity, originality, and technical excellence.” The animals, sadly, get no awards.

Below is a selection of our favorite images. Visit the WPY link above to scroll through more nominees.

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A gentoo penguin, the fastest underwater swimmer of all penguins, flees for its life as a leopard seal bursts out of the water. Photo: Eduardo Del Álamo

 

A Weddell seal on the coast of South Georgia Island. Weddell seals are impressive divers capable of descending to more than 500 meters (1,640 feet), with high reserves of the oxygen‑binding protein myoglobin in their muscles. This helps them to hunt underwater for long periods, sometimes more than an hour. Photo: Ralf Schneider.

 

In a rare encounter, a lone male cheetah is set upon by a pack of African wild dogs. In a few minutes, the spat was over as the cheetah fled. Photo: Peter Haygarth

 

On a frigid day in Hokkaido, this tiny Long-tailed tit was nibbling on an icicle. Photo: Diana Rebman

 

In San Ignacio Lagoon, on the coast of Mexico’s Baja California, baby grey whales and their mothers actively seek contact with people for a head scratch or back rub. Photo: Thomas P. Peschak

 

Pinned to a white wall are the skins of rattlesnakes. Surrounding them are signed bloody handprints –triumphant marks of those who have skinned snakes at the annual rattlesnake roundup in Sweetwater, Texas. Each year tens of thousands of rattlesnakes are caught for this four‑day festival. In spring, wranglers use gasoline to flush the snakes out of their winter dens–a practice banned in many US states. They are kept in poor conditions before being brought to the festival and tossed into snake pits. They are then decapitated as entertainment for festival-goers, who pay to skin them. Proponents of the roundups claim they are needed to control the populations of venomous snakes to ensure the safety of people, pets and livestock. But opponents regard round-ups as an ecologically damaging, unsustainable and inhumane practice. What Jo-Anne found most unsettling about this image was “that so many of the bloodied handprints belonged to children.” Photo: Jo-Anne McArthur,

 

The three antennae-like projections growing out of this weevil’s thorax were the ripe fruiting bodies of a ‘zombie fungus.’ Spreading inside the weevil while it was alive, the parasitic fungus had taken control of its muscles and compelled it to climb. When it was at a suitable height –for the fungus –the weevil held fast to the stem. Fueled by the weevil’s insides, the fungus then started to grow fruiting bodies topped by capsules that would release a multitude of tiny spores to infect new prey. Photo: Frank Deschandol

 

A brown-throated three-toed sloth hangs out in Panama’s Soberanía National Park. Photo: Carlos Pérez Naval

 

In the clear water of the Red Sea, a shoal of bigeye trevally circle 25 meters (80 feet) down at the edge of the reef. Ras Mohammed National Park, Sinai, Egypt. Photo: Alex Mustard

 

A juvenile jackfish peers out from inside a small jellyfish off Tahiti in French Polynesia. With nowhere to hide in the open ocean, it has adopted the jelly as an overnight traveling shelter, slipping under the umbrella and possibly immune to the stinging tentacles, which deter potential predators. Photo: Fabien Michenet

 

Top photo: An ever-adaptable raccoon pokes her bandit-masked face out of a 1970s Ford Pinto on a deserted farm in Saskatchewan, Canada. In the back seat, her five playful kits trill with excitement. Credit: Jason Bantle. 

Wildlife Photographer of the Year is developed and produced by the Natural History Museum, London


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