Back to the cute stuff. Here’s the judge’s top choice in the Mammals Behavior category. It’s called “When Mother Says Run,” by Shanyuan Li, a Chinese photographer. Li’s shot offers a rare glimpse at a family of young Pallas’ cats, or manuls, on the steppes of the Qinghai–Tibet Plateau in northwest China. It didn’t come easy, either. He spent six years working in high altitudes taking pictures of the animals to get it.
Pallas’ cats are notoriously hard to find since they’re very solitary, mostly active at the ungodly hours of dusk and dawn, and sadly, are also under threat due to the degradation of the steppe grassland from mining and overgrazing. Li tracked a family of kitties for more than 2 miles while they were in search of food on the steppe. He eventually hid out on a hill across from their lair until this moment when the kittens came out to play.
The Golden Moment
Weird one! The winner of the Underwater category is “The Golden Moment” by Songda Cai from China. You can’t tell from the photo, but the creature in the picture—a diamondback squid paralarva—is pretty tiny. It comes in at just 2.5 inches (6 to 7 centimeters) long. Cai captured the photo when he was on a nighttime dive in the deep water far off the coast of Anilao in the Philippines. A paralarva is an early stage in squid development between hatchling and subadult phases of life, and this one flitted into the light that the photographer was using to find his way around the water.
Incredibly, this one, though small, is already recognizable as a squid. This creature will stay transparent into adulthood, as all diamondback squids do. Those bright, glowing orange bits are elastic sacs of pigment under its skin.