Royal Society Selects Best Animal Photos

The Royal Society in the U.K. has released the winners of its competition, showcasing some of the finest animal and nature photography from across the globe.

style="text-align: left;">Photographer Imre Potyó captured this image of Danube mayflies engaged in a courtship dance. The photo is the overall winner of the Royal Society competition. "At the beginning, females and males fly above the water surface where they copulate," Potyó said. "After that the females begin their upstream-directed compensatory flight, which ends when they deposit their eggs onto the water surface. This shot captures the fantastic energy and chaos of the mayflies' dance and the mood of the night time too."

style="text-align: left;">Credit: Imre Potyó, Royal Society

style="text-align: left;">The winner of the Ecology and Environmental Science category is this photo of a solitary juvenile clown fish (Amphiprion bicinctus) seeking shelter in a bleached bubble-tip anemone in the Red Sea. The photo was snapped following a global bleaching event that has decimated coral reefs worldwide this year. "The lone fish seems like a timely analogy for a generation that may grow up in a bleak future," said photographer Tane Sinclair-Taylor, "without the colorful and diverse coral reefs that we have today."

style="text-align: left;">Credit: Tane Sinclair-Taylor, Royal Society

style="text-align: left;">The winner of the Micro-Imaging category is this photo of an activated carbon grain, which looks like an alien landscape. Photographer María Carbajo Sánchez magnified the grain 5,000 times with an electron microscope to obtain such a close-up view of the tiny object. The source of the carbon was a nutshell.

style="text-align: left;">Credit: María Carbajo Sánchez, Royal Society

style="text-align: left;">An eagle ray swimming over the reef with its prey was the subject of the Evolutionary Biology category winner. "Eagle rays have evolved very long tails, but this is the longest that I have ever seen," said photographer Nick Robertson-Brown.

style="text-align: left;">Credit: Nick Robertson-Brown, Royal Society

style="text-align: left;">Shooting from the inside of a large mammal carcass with the help of a long trigger wire, photographer Jonathan Diaz-Marba captured the moment when a griffon vulture searched inside the dead animal's ribcage. The photo is a runner up in the Behavior category. "My fear was that these huge birds could vandalize the expensive photographic equipment, but I had to take the risk," Diaz-Marba said.

style="text-align: left;">The birds nest in colonies on cliffs undisturbed by humans, and they fly over huge open areas searching for food. "I chose an area with many magpies, whose presence gives the vultures a good cue of where to feed," he said.

style="text-align: left;">Credit: Jonathan Diaz-Marba, Royal Society

style="text-align: left;">This image of a trainworm (Myrianida pinnigera) took runner up in the Evolutionary Biology category. "Its front end, the trainworm's engine, is followed by a row of carriages called 'stolons' that increase in size towards the worm's tail end," said Frederik Pleijel, who took the photo. "The carriages are the worm's swimming sexual organs."

style="text-align: left;">"When the trainworm is mature, the last carriage in the train lets go and detaches," he said. "It swims up the water column to reproduce."

style="text-align: left;">Credit: Frederik Pleijel, Royal Society

style="text-align: left;">Photographer Tegwen Gadais captured "Gentoo penguins seemingly 'decorating' their nest with guano" in this photo, taken on the island of South Georgia in the southern Pacific.

style="text-align: left;">"Once the eggs have been laid, each parent will take turns incubating them, relieving themselves by lifting their tails away from the nest and creating the long streaks seen in the picture," Gadais said.

style="text-align: left;">The photo was a runner up in the Ecology and Environmental Science category.

rel="text-align: left;" style="text-align: left;">Credit: Tegwen Gadais

style="text-align: left;">A runner up in the Micro-Imaging category, this photo shows an African house snake (Boaedon fuliginosus) one day after its mother laid her eggs. Photographer Tyler Square noticed that many of the features at this early developmental stage, such as muscle segments and a chambered heart, are shared with other animals.

style="text-align: left;">Credit: Tyler Square, Royal Society

style="text-align: left;">Looking more like jellyfish or subjects of an Andy Warhol painting, the objects in this special commendation photo are actually carbon nanotubes grown in a pillar formation. "The metal disks that make up the jellyfish bodies are made by 'sputtering' charged aluminum and iron ions onto a surface to deposit a thin film of the metals," said photographer Clare Collins.

style="text-align: left;">Credit: Clare Collins, Royal Society

style="text-align: left;">A special commendation went to this human-like photo of Japanese macaques huddling to stay warm during the winter. "When they huddle in these small groups it's called in Japanese saru-dango; saru means 'monkey' and dango is a skewer of Japanese sweet dumpling made from rice flour," photographer Alexandre Bonnefoy said. "These groups are composed only of members of the same family."

style="text-align: left;">"This behavior is not observed everywhere in Japan, but only in (a) few groups," he said. "It's a cultural behavior peculiar to the monkeys in Shodoshima and in Nagano, where this photo was taken, where there is a hot spring which the monkeys bathe in."

style="text-align: left;">Credit: Alexandre Bonnefoy

style="text-align: left;">A special commendation also went to this photo of colorful butterflies gathering on the head of a caiman. "A number of minerals are a scarce resource throughout Amazonia," said Mark Cowan, who took the photo. The behavior allows insects like butterflies to have access to salt, even if it is on the head of a large predatory reptile.

style="text-align: left;">"This particular phenomenon where butterflies and bees congregate on the heads and around the eyes of caimans and turtles has been documented before," he added, "but what is unique here is the simultaneous number of butterfly species and the way in which each species is associated with its own kind."

style="text-align: left;">Credit: Mark Cowan, Royal Society

style="text-align: left;">The winner of a special commendation, publisher's choice, goes to this photo of a superb fan-throated lizard (Sarada superba) native to the northern Western Ghats of India. "About two decades ago, a large part of this plateau was converted into one of Asia's largest wind farms," photographer Prasenjeet Yadav said. "This has resulted in drastic changes in the ecology of this charismatic lizard species."

style="text-align: left;">The lone lizard appears to be contemplating the seemingly inescapable human-caused changes to its habitat.

style="text-align: left;">Credit: Prasenjeet Yadav, Royal Society