A crocodile whose striking yellow eyes lurk just above the mud in a Zimbabwe park earned German photographer Jens Cullman the grand prize in the World Nature Photography awards.
With entries from 45 countries, ‘Danger in the mud’ was taken while Cullman staked out Mana Pools National Park’s largest, drought-ridden pool, which has been reduced to muddied pits.
When temperatures reach 113 degrees (45 degrees Celsius) during the dry season, crocodiles will attempt to aestivation — or reduce their body temperature by burying themselves in mud for up to a month without eating, by living off its fat reserves.
“I had to be very careful not to disturb the crocodile, even though it was buried in dry mud,” Cullman told the competition. “They will launch themselves with tremendous speed and power at any animal foolish enough to come too close.”
See the other stunning winning images.
French photographer Alain Ernoult captured the critically endangered Lesser Antillean Iguana on Grenada Island in the West Indies.
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Australian photographer Julie Kenny won gold in the plants and fungi category for her aerial perspective of a fallen tree surrounded by sheep tracks
The tree is seen as a sacred symbol, which carries significant meanings in both religious and spiritual philosophies,” Kenny told the competition. “While this represents many different things, for me it communicates the interconnection of all things, beginnings and endings, the cycling of life.”
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Camille Fine is a trending visual producer on USA TODAY’s NOW team.