Penguins All In A Row
Three gentoo penguins line up at Gamage Point, Antarctica. Gentoos stand about 22 inches (56 centimeters) tall and weigh about 12 pounds (6 kilograms). Adults are marked by a white strip spanning the top of the head like a bonnet, but babies are grey-and-white balls of fuzz.
African penguins take a sidewalk stroll. These two-foot-tall birds are also known as "jackass penguins" because of their loud, donkey-like calls. They nest in burrows along southern Africa's coastal waters, laying two eggs that are cared for by both mom and dad. One major African penguin colony is right near Cape Town, South Africa, at Boulders Beach. There, penguins rub elbows with tourists and swimmers.
Sea Turtle Stare-Down
A Hawaiian green sea turtle mugs for the camera at the Hawaaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary.
St. Patty's Puffin
Ireland: Home of Guinness beer, leprechauns and ... puffins? Yes, the rocky islands on Ireland's west coast are the summer breeding grounds of a variety of birds, including this little fellow photographed on Skellig Michael in July 2011. Atlantic puffins like this one nest in bonded pairs, and both mom and dad help hatch and raise one chick per year.
Wondrous Whale Dance
A humpback whale breaches in the Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary. A new study, published Aug. 16 in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, finds that to protect marine mammals like these gentle giants, humans need only set aside 4 percent of the world's oceans for conservation. The research found that just 9 conservation sites would protect habitat for 84 percent of all marine mammals species on Earth.
The critical sites are off the coasts of Baja California in Mexico, eastern Canada, Peru, Argentina, northwestern Africa, South Africa, Japan, Australia and New Zealand.
Eye-Popping Undersea Color
A gelatinous nudibranch (Janolus barbarensis) adds a splash of color to the ocean in Morro Bay, Calif. Nudibranches are ocean-dwelling mollusks without shells; they're often called sea slugs, but some sea slugs are in a family of their own, unrelated to the 3,000 or so species of nudibranch.
Marine scientists believe that the colors on nudibranches keep predators at bay, much like a neon sign reading, "Tastes terrible, do not eat!" And indeed, some nudibranches store up toxins from their diet of poisonous sponges, making the slug-like creatures themselves deadly to predators.
Looking for a Seafood Buffet
A moray eel lurks outside a cage full of fish in the Caribbean Sea. The fish are part of a living experiment to find out how different species affect the growth of noxious seaweed that can harm coral reefs. The eel, on the other hand, is just hungry.
Bold Fashion From a Colorful Critter
This harlequin shrimp isn't clowning around (yeah, yeah, cue groans). Hymenocera elegans here is found in the waters off of Indonesia. Popular among aquarium enthusiasts for their bright colors, harlequin shrimp are nonetheless tough to care for in a tank. One reason is their diet: They eat only starfish (and sometimes sea urchins), and they reportedly prefer to eat them alive. Since the prey is so much larger than the predator, it sometimes takes the shrimp two weeks to finish off a single (living) starfish. No wonder people think clowns are scary.
Nest-Weaving Bird Learns from Experience
Practice makes perfect for the Botswanan Southern Masked Weaver, shown above weaving a complex nest of out grass. Weavers aren't born knowing how to build these structures, researchers reported today (Sept. 26, 2011) in the journal Behavioural Processess. Instead, the bird vary their technique from one nest to another, sometimes building left to right, sometimes starting from right to left. As the birds gain more experience building nests, they drop grass less often, suggesting that they improve at their art.
A blue dragonfly perches on a flower. The insect seems to be making googly eyes, but of course those black dots aren't really pupils; dragonflies have compound eyes with hundreds of tiny lenses.