Titled “The Moment,” the picture shows a Tibetan fox about to pounce on an almost comically startled-looking marmot.
The image earned the Chinese photographer Yongqing Bao the wildlife photographer of the year award at the Natural History Museum in London. One of 19 photographs honored by the museum, the picture spread widely online after the awards were announced on Tuesday.
But while the image may have granted the marmot its 15 minutes of fame, the rodent did not survive its encounter with the fox, according to The BBC. The museum described the picture as “a powerful frame of both humor and horror” that “captures the drama and intensity of nature.”
“This compelling picture captures nature’s ultimate challenge — its battle for survival,” Michael Dixon, the director of the Natural History Museum, said in a statement announcing the winners.
“Photographically, it is quite simply the perfect moment,” Roz Kidman Cox, the chairwoman of the judging panel and the former editor of BBC Wildlife Magazine, said in the statement. “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.”
Ms. Cox said the picture taken by Mr. Yongqing, a native of the Chinese province of Qinghai, was one of the few wildlife images to emerge from the Tibetan Plateau, which is also known in China as the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau.
“Images from the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau are rare enough,” she said in the statement. “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 museum also highlighted a photograph taken by 14-year-old Cruz Erdmann, who was named young wildlife photographer of the year for his picture of an iridescent bigfin reef squid.
The museum said Mr. Erdmann, a New Zealander who was born and raised in Bali, had encountered the squid while on a night dive with his father in the Lembeh Strait off the Indonesian island of North Sulawesi.
“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 colors, takes so much skill,” Theo Bosboom, a member of the judging panel, said in the statement. “What a resounding achievement for such a young photographer.”
Check out some of the other award winners below.