'Hauntingly beautiful' image of a golden horseshoe crab wins wildlife photography competition

This year's Wildlife Photographer of the Year honor went to French photographer Laurent Ballesta for his shot of a tri-spine horseshoe crab taken off the coast of Pangatalan Island, Philippines.

The winner of this year's Wildlife Photographer of the Year award is this breathtaking picture of a golden horseshoe crab scuttling down the ocean floor with three striped fish soaring overhead.

The remarkable sight was photographed by French underwater photographer and marine researcher Laurent Ballesta in the protected waters of Pangatalan Island in the Philippines, which serves as a haven for tri-spine horseshoe crabs (Tachypleus tridentatus), an endangered species.

According to a statement sent to Live Science by the prize officials, these horseshoe crabs have been around for more than 100 million years, but overfishing has resulted in habitat loss and a decline in their food supply. They are also harvested by humans for their special blue blood, which is utilized in the creation of vaccinations.

Kathy Moran, chair of the competition jury, stated in the statement, "To see a horseshoe crab so vibrantly alive in its natural habitat, in such a hauntingly beautiful way, was astonishing." We are examining a critically endangered ancient species that is also important to human health. This image is glowing."

The remark suggested that the three young golden trevallies (Gnathanodon speciosus) around the horseshoe crab were likely there to steal any appetizing items dug up by the crab's plodding approach.

Ballesta's picture, "The Golden Horseshoe," was chosen by the judges from among over 50,000 submissions from 95 different nations. Prizes were given to an additional eighteen winners who demonstrated the great diversity of life on Earth.

The Natural History Museum's Doug Gurr, director, said in a statement that this year's winning photos "present compelling evidence of our impact on nature — both positive and negative— while inspiring absolute awe and wonder."

The Natural History Museum in London will host the "Wildlife Photographer of the Year" exhibition including the winning photos from Friday, October 13 through June 30, 2024.

Ballesta has already won the Wildlife Photographer of the Year title once. His image of camouflage groupers (Epinephelus polyphekadion) moving in a milky cloud of eggs and sperm in the South Pacific Ocean off the coast of Fakarava, French Polynesia, won him first place in 2021.

See our selection of the top wildlife photography cameras as well as our beginner's guide to wildlife photography if you want to give it a shot.