You looking at me? Amazing pic captures alligator's creepy red eyes


The Veolia Environnement Wildlife Photographer of the Year Competition always unearths an array of magical snaps.

And Larry Lynch's pic of a sinister-looking alligator, dubbed 'Warning night light', was the winner of the 2012 best animal portrait of the year category.

One evening, while walking along the riverbed of the Myakka River State Park in Sarasota, Florida, USA, Larry came across a group of alligators. It was the dry season, and they had been gorging on fish trapped in the pools left behind as the water receded from the river.

One big alligator had clearly eaten its fill. Larry said: 'It wasn't going anywhere in a hurry. So I set my tripod and camera up about seven metres in front of him and focused on his eyes."

Just after sunset, Larry set his flash on the lowest setting to give just a tiny bit of light, enough to catch the eyeshine in the alligator's eyes. Like cats, an alligator has a tapetum lucidum at the back of each eye – a structure that reflects light back into the photoreceptor cells to make the most of low light.

The colour of eyeshine differs from species to species. In alligators, it glows red – one good way to locate alligators on a dark night. The greater the distance between its eyes, the longer the reptile, in this case, very long.

The ultimate picture created captured a majestic yet sinister image of the formidable predator.

Now in its 48th year, the Natural History Museum-based competition attracted more than 48,000 entries from 98 countries, with Paul Nicklen's 'Bubble-jetting emperors' - a spectacular image of the chaotic underwater world of emperor penguins at the edge of the Ross Sea, Antarctica - claiming the overall title of Veolia Environnement Wildlife Photographer of the Year.

Keen photographer? Entries for the 2013 competition opened on 7 January and close on 25 February 2013. Visit www.nhm.ac.uk/wildphoto for more information.

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