Peeling back layers of the ocean would reveal a feast for the eyes, with brilliant colors and dazzling body forms. These visual delights come to life in the annual underwater photography contest hosted by the University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine & Atmospheric Science. In 2012, their panel of experts chose winners from more than 700 entries, with this dashing headshield sea slug photo taken by Ximena Olds (Florida) taking home the "best overall" award. Olds photographed the creature in St. Thomas of the U.S. Virgin Islands.
This amazing jellyfish photograph received nearly half of the 1,221 online votes in the underwater photography contest. The photo was taken by Todd Aki from Florida.
Taking home first place in the Macro category, Canadian Todd Mintz's photo of these cute-as-can-be yellownose gobies, Elacatinus randalli, peering out from bolder brain coral in Bonaire, Dutch Caribbean.
Snagging third place in the Macro category: an Emperor shrimp, Periclimenes imperator taken by Marcello DiFrancesco (Italy) in Ambon, Indonesia.
First place in the Wide Angle category went to this Lionfish, a species in the genus Pterois, in the Red sea, taken by Mark Fuller from Israel.
Matt Potenski of New Jersey took home second place in the wide angle category for his photo of a school of fish swimming in their home of red mangroves (Rhizophora mangle) in South Bimini, Bahamas.
Who you lookin' at? This overdressed scorpionfish, the paddle flap Rhinopias (Rhinopias eschmeyeri) stole the show with its good looks, snagging second place in the "fish or marine animal portrait" category. Rockford Draper of Texas shot the portrait in Bali, Indonesia.
This nudibranch ( Cratena peregrina) won third place in the animal portrait category. It was taken by Nicholas Samaras of Greece in Chalkidiki, Greece. This species is distinguished by two bright-orange marks at the base and tip of each of its tentacle-like structures called rhinophores. C. peregrina is argued to be hermaphrodite.
Though this animal doesn't look like a tot, indeed the behemoth is just a babe, a juvenile sperm whale (Physeter macrocephalus). The photo, taken in Dominica by Douglas Kahle of Florida took home first place in the animal portrait category.
Davide Lopresti of Spain captured this porcelain crab hanging out on a feathery sea pen in Komodo National Park, Indonesia. The photo won second place in the macro category.
Phillip Gillette of Florida won second place in the "best student entry" category with his shot of this harlequin shrimp, Hymenocera picta, hiding out in the Similan Islands, Thailand.