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Nature's Best Photography Presents: Best of the Best. Windland Smith Rice International Awards

Last updated about 1 year ago

Selected from nearly 500,000 images submitted by photographers from around the globe, the Best of the Best exhibition brings dramatic landscapes, exciting wildlife behavior, and surprising glimpses of Earth's icy peaks to mysterious ocean depths. October 24, 2015- Fall 2016, National Museum of Natural History, Second Floor, Special Exhibits Hall

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    Prionace glauca

    Blue Shark

    Found in temperate and tropical waters, the blue shark is the most abundant and widely distributed open-water shark on the planet. However, with its traditional prey, such as swordfish and tuna, reduced to about 10 percent of their historic populations and the increased demand for shark fins, the blue shark has become the world’s most frequently caught shark.

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    Alces americanus

    Eastern North American Moose

    Moose are found throughout northern North America from Alaska and Canada and as far south as the Rocky Mountains in Colorado. They are the largest member of the deer family and one of the largest land mammals in North America, standing as tall as 7.6 feet (2.3 meters). Generally, they can be spotted near streams or ponds.

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    Equus burchellii

    Burchell's Zebra

    The Kalahari Desert covers much of southwestern Africa and is part of the largest sand basin in the world. For most of the year it remains a desolate region of dust, skeletons, and mirages. However, an annual rainfall attracts roaming herds, which leave massive numbers of footprints on the grey mudflats. Burchell’s zebras undertake localized migrations in Botswana to seasonal feeding areas.

    The Burchell’s zebra is found throughout southeastern Africa. They are easily recognizable because their stripes are especially wide, becoming wider and more horizontal towards the rear of the body. Facial stripes are both horizontal and vertical which creates beautiful patterns.

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    Macaca nemestrina

    Pigtailed Macaque

    The southern pig-tailed macaque is a medium-sized primate found throughout Southeast Asia from southern Thailand to the island of Borneo. Troops of macaques have been observed at the Kinabatangan River, the largest and longest river in the Malaysian state of Sabah in Borneo.

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    Passerina ciris

    Painted Bunting

    Despite its brilliant colors, the male Painted Bunting is easy to overlook as it hides in dense thickets. Even when singing, it is often still concealed among foliage. The bunting nests along the southern Atlantic Coast and also in the south-central states, including Texas. Some biologists suggest that these two populations are actually separate species.

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    Alcedo atthis


    The colorful plumage of the Common Kingfisher makes it one of the most recognizable Eurasian birds. Feeding mainly on fish and invertebrates, the bird waits on perches overhanging a lake, pond, or stream then plunges into the water when prey comes within striking distance. Its bill is long and sharp for catching and holding prey.

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    Mandrillus sphinx


    Mandrills live in the forests of Africa in large groups of up to 40. They retain a strict hierarchy in which a dominant male, huge and vividly colored, mates with fertile females and fathers almost all the infants. A group spends most of its day foraging for fruits and seeds, eggs, and small animals. When night falls they retire to the trees for safety.

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    Rhinopias frondosa

    Weedy Scorpionfish

    The weedy scorpionfish has a strongly slanted, upturned mouth, concave snout, and spines that are relatively soft and easily bendable. It is found in rocky or coralline habitats near algae where it camouflages itself, at depths 43–295 feet (13–90 m). This creature hunts small fishes and invertebrates at night.

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    Tursiops aduncus

    Indian Ocean Bottlenose Dolphin

    Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins tend to live in shallow water near the shore at depths of less than 984 feet (300 m). They are able to alternate between not breathing while deep diving and normal breathing while swimming along the surface. The upper surface of the Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphin is slate blue or dark gray, with darker flippers and extremities, and lighter, often pink-tinted, undersides.

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    Gyps himalayensis

    Himalayan Griffon

    The Himalayan Grifon is a huge vulture and is perhaps the largest and heaviest bird found in the Himalayan Mountains. These vultures weigh an average of 20 pounds (9 kg), and their wingspan varies 8.4 – 10.2 feet (2.56 – 3.1 m). They are not capable of sustained flapping in flight, but soar in thermals.

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    Dietes iridioides

    African Iris

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    Leptonychotes weddellii

    Weddell Seal

    Weddell seal pups are born from September through November and are fed by their mothers’ fat-rich milk for the first six–seven weeks. They are weaned when they are ready to hunt independently and are strong enough to survive in the harsh weather.

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    Hippocampus guttulatus

    Maned Seahorse

    The maned seahorse has prominent fleshy spines that run down the back of the neck, giving the appearance of a “mane.” The color ranges from greenish-yellow to reddish brown, and often mimics its environment to provide valuable camouflage. The seahorse has a tail that can curl to grip onto objects underwater.

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    Cheilinus lunulatus

    Broomtail Wrasse

    The broomtail wrasse inhabits coral reefs and adjacent rubble, sand, and seagrass typically at depths from 6.5 to 23 feet (2 to 7 m). This wrasse reaches an average length of 14 inches (35 cm) and feeds mainly on hard-shelled invertebrates, especially mollusks.

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    Manta birostris

    Atlantic Manta

    The graceful manta ray can be found in subtropical and tropical waters. Despite being one of the largest creatures in our oceans, up to 26-feet-long (8 m), these rays feed almost exclusively on some of the tiniest marine animals. In order to survive, mantas have evolved into perfect plankton-feeding machines; roaming the oceans in search of tiny prey that they filter from the water with giant mouths and sieve-like gill rakers.

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    Istiophorus albicans

    Atlantic Sailfish

    Atlantic sailfish are most often found in the ocean’s upper layer of warm water yet are capable of descending to the coldest, deepest layer. Interestingly, female Atlantic sailfish grow larger than males. They feed on small pelagic fishes and bottom-dwelling organisms. One of the fish’s two dorsal fins is very long and tall which gives them their name “sailfish.”

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    Harengula jaguana

    Scaled Sardine

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    Cervus elaphus elaphus

    Red Deer

    Red deer live in woods, overgrown fields with bushes, and on the edge of swamps. They eat leaves and twigs from trees, bushes, and grass. Red deer are the largest native land animal to occur in the UK. Males have magnificent branched antlers that can reach up to 3 feet (1 m) in width. The coat is reddish-brown in color in summer but becomes brown or grey in winter.

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    Megascops asio

    Eastern Screech Owl

    The Eastern Screech Owl is most easily identified by its small size, streaked breast, and ear-like feather tufts. It can have either gray or rusty-red plumage. The Eastern Screech Owl inhabits much of the eastern United States and southern Canada. It can be found in deciduous, evergreen, or mixed woodland habitats and also large urban parks.

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