The Golden Horseshoe

Laurent Ballesta's Image

Laurent Ballesta (France) goes looking for horseshoe crabs in the protected waters of Pangatalan Island, the Philippines.

Laurent watched as a tri-spine horseshoe crab moved slowly over the mud, searching for food. He focused on the horseshoe crab’s golden, protective carapace and the trio of juvenile golden trevallies poised to dart down for edible morsels ploughed up in its wake.

The horseshoe crab’s carapace hides 12 appendages. One pair, called the chelicerae, is used to push food, such as small invertebrates or algae, into its mouth. The other five pairs are used for locomotion. Its mouth sits between the appendages, each of which has a specialised base that helps grind up food.

Editor and Chair of the Jury, Kathy Moran exclaims, ‘to see a horseshoe crab so vibrantly alive in its natural habitat, in such a hauntingly beautiful way, was astonishing. To understand that what we were looking at was an ancient species, highly endangered and also critical to human health - I was amazed. This photo is luminescent.’

Behind the lens

Laurent Ballesta

Laurent Ballesta


Laurent has authored 13 photography books on underwater wildlife. As co-founder of Andromède Océanologie, he’s been leading major expeditions for 10 years. He illustrates the underwater world as both a naturalist and an artist, whether that be capturing the first images of a coelacanth taken by a diver at a depth of 120 metres, documenting 700 sharks off Fakarava hunting at night or photographing the deepest and longest dive in Antarctica.

Image details

  • Nikon D5
  • 13mm f2.8 lens
  • 1/25 at f22  •   ISO 800  •   Seacam housing  •   2x Seacam strobes
  • Pangatalan Island, Palawan, the Philippines
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