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8 Incredible Images Win Top Prize for 'Illustrating the Rich Diversity of Life on Earth'

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By Clara Chaisson

What on Earth have you photographed?

This open-ended question, asked annually by the BigPicture Natural World Photography Competition, invites predictably diverse submissions: A leopard prowling around Mumbai's Aarey Milk Colony, a Chilean volcano's violent eruption, and the surprisingly peaceful relationship between a blackfish and a venomous Portuguese man o' war, just to name a few.

But out of some 5,000 images, it was White Rhino, by Maroesjka Lavigne of Ghent, Belgium, that snagged the grand prize.

"White Rhino," photographed by Maroesjka Lavigne in Etosha National Park, Namibia.Maroesjka Lavigne

"I love the camouflage and the texture—you can almost feel the cracked mud," wildlife photographer Suzi Eszterhas, who chaired the panel of expert judges, said in a press release. "This photograph also has a poignant, ghostly quality that reflects how rhinos are slipping away before our eye."

For the last six years, the number of rhinos poached for their horns has been climbing and the International Union for Conservation of Nature said poachers killed 1,338 of the endangered animals in 2015. The photo competition hopes that capturing the natural world's incredible variety on film will inspire us to save it in real life.

The "BigPicture" exhibit, on display at the California Academy of Sciences through Oct. 30, features 48 photographs from 27 countries. The judges this year awarded prizes in seven categories: Human/Nature; Terrestrial Wildlife; Landscapes, Waterscapes, and Flora; Aquatic Life; Winged Life; Art of Nature; and Photo Essay: Coral Reef.

Explore the prize-winning images below:

"Big Cat in My Backyard!" photographed by Nayan Khanolkar in Mumbai, India.Nayan Khanolkar

"The Courageous Crossing," photographed by Manoj Shah in Kenya's Maasai Mara National Reserve.Manoj Shah

"The Awakening: Landscape of Fear," photographed by Francisco Negroni in Comuna de Fresia, Region de los Lagos, Chile.Francisco Negroni

"Deep Sky," photographed by Eduardo Acevedo in Los Gigantes, Tenerife, Canary Islands, Spain.Eduardo Acevedo

"Pelicans Composition," photographed by Marco Urso in Lake Kerkini, Greece.Marco Urso

"Microscopic View of Sulfar Crystals in Polarized Light," photographed by Peter Juzak in Wennigsen, Germany.Peter Juzak

"The Coral Triangle," photographed by Eric Madeja in Coral Triangle.Eric Madeja

Reposted with permission from our media associate onEarth.

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