The winning image for the Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2023 award has been revealed by the Natural History Museum.

It was taken by the French underwater photographer and marine biologist Laurent Ballesta, and showed a tri-spine horseshoe crab gliding along the bottom of the sea.

Mr Ballesta found the creature, which dates from prehistoric times, in the protected waters of Pangatalan Island in the Philippines.

It is accompanied in the winning shot by three golden trevally fish.

Western Telegraph: The winning image from Laurent BallestaThe winning image from Laurent Ballesta (Image: Laurent Ballesta/Wildlife Photographer of the Year/PA Wire)

Horseshoe crabs have survived for more than 100 million years, but they now face habitat destruction and overfishing as they are caught for food and for their blue blood, which is used in vaccines.

Mr Ballesta is only the second person in the Natural History Museum’s 59-year-old competition to have won the prize twice.

His first award was in 2021 for a shot of camouflage grouper fish in a swirl of eggs and sperm in Fakarava, French Polynesia.

Winning photo described as 'luminescent' and 'astonishing'

Kath Moran, chair of the judging panel for the competition, described the winning photo as “luminescent”.

She said: “To see a horseshoe crab so vibrantly alive in its natural habitat, in such a hauntingly beautiful way, was astonishing.

Western Telegraph: A beached whale was one of the winning imagesA beached whale was one of the winning images (Image: Lennart Verheuvel/Wildlife Photographer of the Year/PA Wire)

“We are looking at an ancient species, highly endangered, and also critical to human health.”

The winning photographs were selected from 49,957 original entries from 95 countries and were announced at an awards ceremony in South Kensington on Tuesday (October 10).

Western Telegraph: A mushroom releasing spores in GreeceA mushroom releasing spores in Greece (Image: Agorastos Papatsanis/Wildlife Photographer of the Year/PA)

Among the 17 other category winners was a beached orca in the Netherlands photographed by Lennart Verheuvel, a parasol mushroom releasing its spores from Agorastos Papatsanis and two Nubian ibex locking horns in a cliff-side clash in Israel was captured by Amit Eshel.

The Young Wildlife Photographer of the Year award went to Carmel Bechler from Israel, for snapping several barn owls in a hollowed-out concrete building by a roadside.

Western Telegraph: Two Nubian IbexTwo Nubian Ibex (Image: Amit Eshel/Wildlife Photographer of the Year/PA Wire)

Dr Doug Gurr, director of the Natural History Museum, said: “Whilst inspiring absolute awe and wonder, this year’s winning images present compelling evidence of our impact on nature – both positive and negative.

“Global promises must shift to action to turn the tide on nature’s decline.”

Next year, the Natural History Museum will celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Wildlife Photographer of the Year award with new prizes and waiver fees for more than 100 countries. Submissions are open from October 16.