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The Most Amazing Animal Photos of 2018

From funny to ferocious to downright adorable, these incredible shots will give you a new appreciation for nature.

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Golden monkeysMarsel van Oosten/Courtesy Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Golden couple

This evocative photograph of Qinling golden snub-nosed monkeys won the grand prize in the Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition run by the Natural History Museum (NHM) in London. The pair is watching the valley below, where the leaders of two other monkey groups started fighting. These 60 adorable animal photos will warm your heart.

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Owls in pipeArshdeep Singh/Courtesy Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Who, me?

Would you believe this stunning photo was taken by a child? Arshdeep Singh was driving with his father when he told his dad to stop—he’d just spotted an owl dive into a pipe. Ashdeep borrowed his father’s camera and telephoto lens and kept the window half-open so he could rest his camera at the right height. Eventually, the curious spotted owls poked their heads out and stared unblinkingly at the camera, giving Ashdeep the shot that won him the 10 Years and Under category of the NHM competition. You’ll love these gorgeous photos of cheetahs. 

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Seals on iceCristobal Serrano/Courtesy Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Seal’s eye view

A drone helped get this birds-eye shot of crabeater seals resting on an ice floe near the tip of the Antarctic Peninsula, which won the Animals in Their Environment category of the NHM competition. An uptick in melting sea ice could mean the seals have fewer options when seeking sanctuary from their predators like killer whales, as well as a loss in their main food source, krill, which use ice for shelter and their own meals of algae.

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WaspsGeorgina Steytler/Courtesy Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Busy as a wasp

The waterhole in Australia’s Walyormouring Nature Reserve is literally buzzing in the summer. Mud daubers roll mud into balls to build their nests, and this shot of female wasps gathering their building materials won the Behaviour: Invertebrates category from NHM. Don’t miss these other 10 bizarre animals you won’t believe are real.

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JaguarAlejandro Prieto/Courtesy Wildlife Photographer of the Year

No trespassing

Jaguars scratch their “signature tree” to signal to other animals that this branch is taken. Photographer Alejandro Prieto set up a camera in Mexico’s Sierra de Vallejo for months, checking in every now and then to change the batteries. After eight months, he finally caught the jaguar returning to his claimed spot, winning Wildlife Photojournalist Award: Story for the NHM competition.

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Dueling deerMichel d'Oultremont/Courtesy Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Dueling deer

Mating season is the only time of year when the herds that are normally segregated between males and females meet together. In the Ardennes forest in Belgium, two red deer stags locked antlers in tough competition over potential mates. This moody photo won photographer Michel d’Oultremont the Rising Star Portfolio Award for NHM.

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TreehoppersJavier Aznar González de Rueda/Courtesy Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Helicopter mom

Most treehoppers rely on other insect species like ants to protect their babies—but in the genus Alchisme, the mother takes on the sole responsibility of protecting her nymphs, sometimes with the help of fellow treehoppers. If an attacker comes, the mamas like this one in Ecuador, which won the Wildlife Photographer Portfolio Award for the NHM competition, will flash the spines on her back. Check out these sweet National Geographic photos of baby animals and their mamas.

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SpittlebugSaulius Gugis/Courtesy Nikon Small World Photomicrography Competition

Small wonder

This spittlebug nymph earned bronze in the 2018 Nikon Small World Photomicrography Competition. As adults, spittlebugs look like grasshoppers, but when they’re young, they have a curious habit: covering themselves with foamy “spittle” that keeps them from drying out and wards off predators.

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Hornet stingerPierre Anquet/Courtesy Nikon Small World Photomicrography Competition

Sharp sting

This runner-up from the Small World contest features a close-up look at an Asian hornet’s stinger, with a drop of venom on the tip. The stings aren’t deadly to humans, barring any allergies, but Vespa velutina is a threat to honeybees in France and Britain, where it’s an invasive species.

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Baboons cuddlingAP/Shutterstock

Snuggling for warmth

Germany can be frigid in the winter, which is why these bleeding-heart baboons cuddled their babies tightly in January at the Wilhelma zoo.

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Lion cubAdam Warzawa/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

Showing off

Four lion cubs were born in the Gdansk, Poland, zoo in December 2017. Weeks later, they were already showing their ferocious side. You won’t want to miss these 30 funny dog photos that will make you LOL.

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MonkeyUtrecht, Robin/action press/Shutterstock

Monkey see …

The Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary in Indonesia is teeming with friendly animals like this long-tailed macaque. They’re named for their exceptionally long tails, which are usually even longer than their bodies.

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Red SquirrelGeert Weggen/Solent News/Shutterstock

Make a wish

A curious red squirrel started investigating a dandelion in Sweden. If it could make a wish on that dandelion, it would probably ask to get its ecosystem back—once the North American eastern gray squirrel was introduced to Great Britain, the newcomers took over and wiped out a good deal of red squirrels.

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Red deerStephen Cheatley/Shutterstock

King of the hill

This buck looks like king of the Scottish Highlands, and that’s not a far-fetched statement—red deer are the largest wild land mammal alive that’s native to Scotland. Learn about 15 adorable animals you didn’t even know existed.

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Water BuffaloAP/Shutterstock

A long walk

You wouldn’t want to get in the way of these big guys. About 120 water buffaloes traveled from their winter home in Kiskunság National Park to a farm about 55 miles away from Budapest.

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DolphinsImage Source/Shutterstock

Sticking together

Bottlenose dolphins typically swim in groups called pods of five to twenty dolphins. Large groups like this near the Galapagos Islands are less common but not unheard of—they’ll sometimes gather in pods of about 1,000 males, females, and calves.

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Frog and SnailAndi Abdul Halil/Solent News/Shutterstock

New best friend

This little frog in Indonesia seems to have found a new friend in the snail slithering on its head. Ironically, in 2014, a different frog in Indonesia was caught hitching a ride on a bigger snail’s back. Maybe this is payback.

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SharkImage Source/Shutterstock

New best friend

Great whites are responsible for more shark attacks than any other species of shark. However, most of their attacks aren’t deadly and are probably just “sample bites,” meaning they’re just curious and will catch and release their victims. Don’t miss these 20 arrestingly beautiful photos that stand the test of time.