A stunning photograph has captured a wolf spider wearing a hat of her own babies in Maryland. The image, titled "Wolf Spider Mama" was named the winner of the insects and arachnids category of The Nature Conservancy's 2023 Global Photo Contest.
The image, taken by photographer Benjamin Salb, shows a wolf spider (of the family Lycosidae) carrying its spiderlings. Salb spotted the spider in the middle of an asphalt path early in the morning.
"What’s special to me about this recognition is that this mama spider and her spiderlings were just [in] my neighborhood park," he wrote in an Instagram post after the winners were announced. "I wasn’t on a safari nor in the jungles of Madagascar (not hating, I’m just jealous). I was in suburbia."
Wolf spiders are unique in that they carry their egg sac on the bottom rear of their abdomens. They can lay around 100 eggs at a time and are fiercely protective of their young. "After hatching, the spiderlings climb on their mother's back, and she carries them around for several days," Jo-Anne Nina Sewlal, an arachnologist at the University of the West Indies in Trinidad, previously told Live Science. Within a week, the spiderlings become independent and they climb off and leave.
The overall winner of the contest was Tibor Litauszki from Hungary, who captured the moment a newt feasted on newly laid frog eggs underwater.
In total, more than 80,000 photographers submitted nearly 189,000 photos to the contest. "Photographers from all walks of life helped give voice to nature by showing us what mattered to them," Alex Snyder, judging coordinator for the competition, said in a statement.
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Hannah Osborne is the planet Earth and animals editor at Live Science. Prior to Live Science, she worked for several years at Newsweek as the science editor. Before this she was science editor at International Business Times U.K. Hannah holds a master's in journalism from Goldsmith's, University of London.