A picture capturing a standoff between a Tibetan fox and a marmot, seemingly frozen in life-or-death deliberations, has won the top prize at the Natural History Museum’s annual wildlife photography competition.
China’s Yongqing Bao was named Wildlife Photographer of the Year for the photo which judges said captures "quite simply the perfect moment".
Wildlife photographer Yongqing had to stake out an alpine meadow on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau for several hours to be in position to catch the action.
Chairwoman of the judging panel Roz Kidman Cox said the shot of the fox and marmot taken on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau was photographically “the perfect moment”.
“The expressive intensity of the postures holds you transfixed, and the thread of energy between the raised paws seems to hold the protagonists in perfect balance.
"Images from the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau are rare enough, but to have captured such a powerful interaction between a Tibetan fox and a marmot – two species key to the ecology of this high-grassland region – is extraordinary."
The winner of the Behaviour: Birds category, Land Of The Eagle by Audun Rikardsen took three years to achieve.
Audun had carefully placed an old tree branch in a position where the golden eagles would come into land. A camera flash would be triggered as soon as a bird set down.
The Norwegian photographer said the birds "became so used to the flash going off, it didn't seem to bother them. I think they like having their picture taken".
Fourteen-year-old Cruz Erdmann took the award for Young Wildlife Photographer of the Year with his portrait of an iridescent big fin reef squid captured on a night dive in the Lembeh Strait off North Sulawesi, Indonesia.
Theo Bosboom, nature photographer and member of the judging panel praised the picture for its skill and attention to detail.
He said: "To dive in the pitch dark, find this beautiful squid and to be able to photograph it so elegantly, to reveal its wonderful shapes and colours, takes so much skill.
"What a resounding achievement for such a young photographer," he added.
Among the category winners was Thomas Easterbook, now 11, from Buckinghamshire, who won the 10 years and under section of the competition for a shot of a hummingbird moth he captured on holiday in France.
A collection of the best photographs will go on display at London’s Natural History Museum, before touring the UK and internationally.
The Architectural Army by Daniel Kronauer, shows an army of ants hanging from branches, taken in Costa Rica.
The ants build their own next from their own bodies and inside their chains are passageways and chambers where they protect their queen and nurture their young.
Kronauer said: "Pretty much every day they disassemble this structure; it just melts away and they carry the larvae across the rainforest, setting up a new bivouac maybe 150m away."
He added: "It's beautiful. I thought this nest looked like a crown or a cathedral."
The two winning images were selected from 19 category winners, depicting the diversity of life on Earth - from displays of rarely seen animal behaviour to hidden underwater worlds.
Cruz and Yongqing’s images will be on display along with 98 other photographs at the Natural History Museum from October 18 before touring across the UK and internationally to locations such as Canada, Spain, the US, Australia and Germany.