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100 Best Science Photos of the Year

Ancient ink

Tattoos found at the mummy's neck show several Wadjet eyes — a sign associated with the divine and with protection.

Tattoos found at the mummy's neck show several Wadjet eyes — a sign associated with the divine and with protection. (Image credit: Ann Austin)

Divine eyes, lotus blossoms and snakes are among the tattoos on this mummy of an Egyptian woman who lived between 1550 B.C. and 1080 B.C. in the village of Deir el-Medina. Archaeologists first thought that these blue markings were painted on, perhaps right before burial, but closer examinations revealed that they were a permanent feature on the woman's skin. On the woman's neck, seen here, are Wadjet eyes, a symbol associated with divine protection. Between the eyes, right over the woman's voice box are nefer symbols, which indicate goodness. 

Enormous eyes

Want a hug?

Net-casting spiders with dental silicone painted over their eyes have more trouble catching prey than able-eyed spiders do, the study found. (Image credit: Jay Stafstrom)

Jeepers! These peepers belong to net-casting spiders (Deinopis), which use their wide eyes to hunt at night. These spiders live in Florida, southern Georgia and Costa Rica and build net-like webs to catch prey like ants and crickets.

Researchers tested these spiders' visual acuity by temporarily painting over their pair of large eyes with dental silicon to see if they could still catch prey. The spiders with covered eyes less prey, and struggled especially to catch larger walking insects, than spiders who could see out of their large eyes. The spiders' six smaller eyes didn't seem to help them much, the researchers reported in the journal Biology Letters.

Stunning cuttlefish

Giant Australian cuttlefish (Sepia apama), Spencer Gulf, South Australia.

Giant Australian cuttlefish (Sepia apama), Spencer Gulf, South Australia. (Image credit: Scott Portelli, Wildlife Photographer)

A crowd of cuttlefish gathers in the Spencer Gulf of South Australia. These Giant Australian cuttlefish (Sepia apama) were in decline, prompting researchers to investigate how cephalopods, the group that includes cuttlefish and octopuses, are doing worldwide. To their surprise, they found that the group as a whole has increased in numbers over the past 60 years. Even Giant Australian cuttlefish recovered during the study period, the researchers reported in the journal Current Biology. Because cephalopods grow rapidly and have short lifespans, they may be particularly adaptable to changing ocean conditions, the researchers concluded.

Big squid

On Oct. 1, 2013, a 30-foot-long giant squid washed ashore in the Spanish community of Cantabria.

On Oct. 1, 2013, a 30-foot-long giant squid washed ashore in the Spanish community of Cantabria. (Image credit: Enrique Talledo, www.enriquetalledo.com)

How big of squid might be trawling the deep sea? Researchers reported in the Journal of Zoology in May that giant squid (Architeuthis dux) may grow 65 feet (20 meters) long, longer than a school bus. 

Since giant squid don't exactly hang out in shallow waters, little is known about them. Anatomical information comes mostly from corpses that wash ashore, like this one. This photograph of a 30-foot-long giant squid was taken in 2013 in Cantabria, Spain.

Miracle panda

giant-panda-cub-2

Hao Hao cleaned and held the tiny hairless, blind cub in her mouth. (Image credit: Pairi Daiza / Benoit Bouchez)

Baby giant pandas aren't so giant. Here, a healthy male cub gets scooped into the mouth of his mother, Hao Hao, at Pairi Daiza Wildlife Park in Belgium. The zoo director called the 6-ounce (171 grams) cub a "little pink sausage."

Zoo officials called the healthy cub a "miracle," because the species is notoriously difficult to breed in captivity. The baby, Tian Bao, is now a cuddly ball of fur with his own blog on the zoo's website.

Windswept lion

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In this 1996 photo, a lion patrols the dry Nossob riverbed in the Kalahari Gemsbok National Park, a wildlife refuge in South Africa. (Image credit: Chris Johns | National Geographic)

This photograph of a windswept lion in South Africa's Kalahari Gemsbok National Park was taken in 1996, but was part of a traveling exhibition this year highlighting some of the 50 best National Geographic images of all time. The pictures were the ones selected to be on the magazine's first mobile app in 2011. This shot of a lion squinting into the wind in the Nossob riverbed was taken by wildlife photographer Chris Johns.    

Long exposure

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Bruce Dale, who worked for National Geographic for 25 years, mounted a remote- controlled camera on the tail of this jumbo jet, then took a 25-second-long exposure to capture this 1977 photo. (Image credit: Bruce Dale)

Another photograph in the National Geographic traveling exhibition was this 1977 long-exposure shot. Photographer Bruce Dale mounted a camera on a jumbo jet's tail and took a 25-second-long exposure showing the runway lights as the plane approaches for landing.  

Blacktip beauty

Blacktip reef sharks (shown here) are common in the lagoons of the Palmyra Atoll in the Pacific Ocean.

Blacktip reef sharks (shown here) are common in the lagoons of the Palmyra Atoll in the Pacific Ocean. (Image credit: Kydd Pollock)

A Blacktip reef shark (Carcharhinus melantopterus) cruises through sun-dappled waters near the Palmyra Atoll in the Pacific Ocean. By tracking sharks as they moved through a deep channel here, researchers found that the animals follow a daily schedule, including a "rush hour" in and out of the lagoon between 7 and 8 o'clock each night. 

Singing lemur

The indri (Indri indri) is the only singing lemur species.

The indri (Indri indri) is the only singing lemur species. (Image credit: Giovanna Bonadonna / University of Turin)

Who's up there? This is an indri (Indri indri), a type of lemur native to Madagascar that actually sings. Troops follow a rhythmic beat when making their calls, and even coordinate in lemur choruses. Low-ranking males syncopate their cries for a call-and-response effects, researchers reported June 14 in the journal Frontiers in Neuroscience. These stand-out calls may be a way to advertise fighting abilities or to call out to potential mates, the researchers said.

A glacier calving

Ice from an Antarctic glacier falls into the sea.

Ice from an Antarctic glacier falls into the sea. (Image credit: Alba Martin-Español)

Ice from an Antarctic glacier calves into the sea. In 2016, the last carbon dioxide monitoring station not to show a reading of 400 parts per million of the gas finally registered that landmark number. The first carbon dioxide observatory to register 400 ppm did so in 2013. The last time carbon dioxide levels were this high was at least 800,000 years ago, based on ice-core data.