October 27, 2006

Best Wildlife Photos of 2006

Photo: Best Wildlife Photos of 2006
Animal Behavior Winner: "Turtle Grooming"
Shell Wildlife Photographer of the Year Competition, 2006

This green turtle is getting a full-body cleaning and massage courtesy of local fish at Turtle Pinnacle near Kailua Kona, Hawaii.

U.S. marine biologist Andre Seale, who took this photo, says the protected green turtles that come here rarely have to wait long for such a treatment from the fish, though some get more attention than others.

"Not all turtles attract so many fish, perhaps because of the amount of algae that's growing on them," Seale said.

The algae-eaters are colorful yellow tang and goldring surgeonfish, a species found only around the Hawaiian Islands. Also indigenous to the region is the saddleback wrasse, seen underneath, which feeds on dead and damaged skin.

"The turtles go up for a gulp of air, then come back down again," he added. "It's a bit like a car wash for them."
Photo: Best Wildlife Photos of 2006
Underwater World Winner: "The Great Mimic"
Shell Wildlife Photographer of the Year Competition, 2006

It might want you to think otherwise, but this rare sea creature is actually an octopus.

The Indo-Malayan mimic octopus, a species first described only a year ago, is a master of disguise. When Michael Aw of Singapore first spotted the animal while diving off Indonesia's Banka Island, the octopus was pretending to be an eel, he says

Swimming alongside it for an hour, Aw says the shape-shifting octopus went on to assume the appearance of a sole, a ray, and then a sea snake. Its repertoire of disguises—used for both hunting and hiding—also includes hermit crabs, jellyfish, and sea cucumbers.

In the photo, the 1.5-foot-long (0.5-meter-long) octopus is mimicking a feather star, an animal related to the sea star, or starfish, Aw says.

"I guess it was saying, Please leave me alone, I'm really not interesting," the photographer said.
Photo: Best Wildlife Photos of 2006
Young Wildlife Photographer of the Year: "The Dilemma"
Shell Wildlife Photographer of the Year Competition, 2006

Bug enthusiast Rick Stanley, 17, was exploring rain forests in the Dominican Republic with a group of naturalists when he and a friend heard a loud squeak from above. Looking up, they discovered a distressed Hispaniolan tree frog caught in the jaws of a green vine snake.

While Stanley, from Washington, D.C., recorded the drama on film, his friend Rubio decided to play a more active role.

"He felt sorry for the frog and touched the snake so it would let the frog go," Stanley said.

"It's amazing to think that snake could have eaten the frog," he added, noting the difference in size between the would-be predator and prey. "I guess we'll never know."

Stanley, who plans to become a biologist, accompanied a U.S.-led expedition that he says turned up seven new species of longhorn beetles.
Photo: Best Wildlife Photos of 2006
Overall Winner: "Beast of the Sediment"
Shell Wildlife Photographer of the Year Competition, 2006

This image of a massive walrus looming through clouds of mud while probing for food in Arctic waters was voted best overall photo in the 2006 Shell Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition.

Unveiled October 19 at the Natural History Museum in London, the winning images—five of which are included in this gallery—were chosen from 18,000 entries from amateur and professional photographers in 55 countries.

Göran Ehlmé from Sweden captured top prize for this face-to-face walrus encounter off northeast Greenland, where the tusked giants come to root out mollusks from the seabed using their bristled snouts and powerful flippers.

Ehlmé, who has filmed walruses for National Geographic Television, is the first person to photograph the animals feeding underwater. Diving with walruses is fraught with danger, and Ehlmé took the plunge only after spending many years studying their behavior.

"They are highly unpredictable and dangerous," said Ehlmé, who has been attacked by the marine mammals in the past.

"I think this one was in a bad, bad mood when he saw me. Appearing through the mud clouds, he looks like an angry god coming down from the heavens."

"Take this tip from nature: The forest would be a very silent place if no birds sang except those who sang best."

Bernard Meltzer

1 comment:

Hershal said...

i loved that photo of turtle getting massaged!

and the one where vine snake catches a bite for wine...it looks ewww!