Best Earth Images - March 2, 2012

Sharks, Seahorses, Wolverines and Leopards

ship plumes, pacific ocean

(Image credit: NOAA.)

Sharks, leopards, seahorses and wolverines ... many of our top picks this week highlight various animals across the world. Check these out.

Eerie Beauty Under the Sea

reef shark photograph, shark images, reef shark researchers, swimming with sharks, diving photographs, diving with sharks, animal news

(Image credit: Neil Hammerschlag.)

Yes, they're real. This otherworldly photograph of three reef sharks is the handiwork of shark researcher Neil Hammerschlag, an assistant research professor at the University of Miami.

Hammerschlag captured the photograph on a late afternoon dive in the Bahamas in 2010, after the hard work of a research trip in the area was done.

"That day the water was crystal clear there was about 200 feet [60 meters] visibility," Hammerschlag told OurAmazingPlanet. "And once we accomplished our research goals, we decided to get in the water and swim with these beautiful creatures."

[Full Story: Sharks' Awesome, Eerie Beauty Captured in Dive Photo]

More than Just a Leap Day

(Image credit: NWS)

The Leap Day tornado that struck Harrisburg, Ill., killing at least six, was rated as one of the strongest on the tornado damage scale a rarity for February.

From Tuesday into Wednesday, the Storm Prediction Center received reports of 36 tornadoes. Several tornadoes have been rated EF-2 on the tornado damage scale, including the destructive twister that hit the entertainment district inBranson, Mo. Nebraska saw its first February tornado in recorded history this week.

[Full Story: Deadly Leap Day Tornado Was Rare and Powerful EF-4]

A Herd of Pot-Bellied Fry

Baby and adult pot-bellied seahorses

(Image credit: Julie Larsen Maher © WCS)

A herd of baby pot-bellied seahorses are the newest additions to the Wildlife Conservation Society's New York Aquarium.

The arrival of the aquatic newborns (known as fry, not ponies) is a boon to the survival of the species as they are endangered.

[Full Story: Baby Pot-Bellied Seahorses Born at NY Aquarium]

Elusive Wolverines

Wolverine photographed in camera trap

(Image credit: Robert Inman, WCS North America Program)

Spotting a wolverine in the wild is a rare feat, as the numbers of these elusive creatures have dwindled with pressure to their habitats. But conservationists with the Wildlife Conservation Society were able to snap a picture of one wolverine as it reached for the bait of a camera trap placed in a tree in Montana.

The camera trap was part of an eight-year study of wolverines in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem that has led to a better understanding of wolverine ecology and will help inform conservation strategies so that this rare species can survive in the 21st century, the WCS said in a statement.

[Full Story: Elusive Wolverine's Photo Taken by Camera Trap]

Pacific Cloud Plumes

ship plumes, pacific ocean

(Image credit: NOAA.)

From NOAA's Environmental Visualiation Laboratory:

As cargo ships steam across the oceans, the tiny aerosol particles in their exhaust act as seeds around which moisture in the atmosphere can condense. Occasionally this results in ship tracks becoming visible in cloud imagery. Taken on February 21, 2012, this GOES-15 visible image shows such tracks, some of which are 1,000 miles long.

Snow Covered Lake Sakakawea

ISS image shows ice covering North Dakota's Lake Sakakawea.

(Image credit: NASA)

While winter has seemed like a no-show for most of the country, North Dakota's Lake Sakakawea is certainly seeing its effects: Ice covers the surface of the lake in this photo snapped by an astronaut aboard the International Space Station, demonstrating the harsh conditions experienced during winter in this region.

A local weather station near New Town, N.D., reported an air temperature of minus 11 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 24 degrees Celsius), with a wind chill of approximately minus 25 F (minus 32 C) at 10:36 a.m. local time six minutes before the image was taken.

[Full Story: Winter's Icy Grip Seen in Astronaut Photo]

New Photos of Snow Leopards

snow leopards in india, snow leopard pictures, snow leopards Kashmir, where snow leopards live, endangered snow leopards, endangered big cats, big cats news, endangered species news, snow leopards photos

(Image credit: ©WWF-India/ Dept. of Wildlife J&K.)

An oft war-torn region of the Himalayas is now home to at least two endangered snow leopards, new photos taken by a conservation group have shown.

Camera traps set up in Kashmir, just a few miles from the line of control separating the Indian province from Pakistan, snapped photos of the elusive cats, and the international conservation organization WWF is hailing their return to the mountain region, home to some of the tallest mountains on Earth.

[Full Story: New Photos Show Endangered Snow Leopards in Kashmir]

For the science geek in everyone, Live Science offers a fascinating window into the natural and technological world, delivering comprehensive and compelling news and analysis on everything from dinosaur discoveries, archaeological finds and amazing animals to health, innovation and wearable technology. We aim to empower and inspire our readers with the tools needed to understand the world and appreciate its everyday awe.