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100 Best Science Photos of 2018

Pooping sea cucumber

(Image credit: Alamy)

Everybody poops — and that includes sea cucumbers. Despite their name, these slimy sea creatures are animals, not vegetables, complete with a digestive system. And a video posted to the YouTube channel SouthernIslandDive captured that digestive system in action, or at least, the end of it. The video shows a dark hole on one end of the animal's body opening, and long spiral mass of sediment-packed poo shooting out.

Giant tadpole

(Image credit: Earyn McGee/SWRS/The Frog Conservation Project)

Meet Goliath, a massive tadpole bigger than a banana. Goliath is an American bullfrog (Lithobates catesbeianus) tadpole who was pulled out of a shallow pond in southeastern Arizona, according to herpetologist Earyn McGee, a doctoral candidate at the University of Arizona. McGee posted photos of Goliath to Twitter, noting that the researchers who spotted him initially thought he was a fish due to his unusual size. It's thought that his size is due to a hormone imbalance, and that, as a result, it's unlikely that he'll ever metamorphose into a frog.

Mars InSight

Mars InSight lander art

(Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Greetings from the Red Planet! After a nearly 6-month-long journey, NASA's InSight lander touched down safely on the Martian surface — and promptly snapped a photo. The InSight is the first Mars lander to successfully touch down since the Curiously rover arrived on the planet in 2012. Over the next two years, the robot will probe Mars' interior structure.

Digitally-preserved cadaver

Potter's body was encased in polyvinyl alcohol prior to freezing.

(Image credit: Lynn Johnson/National Geographic)

Before she died, Susan Potter knew she would make history. Not only would hers be the first diseased cadaver (and one containing a titanium hip) to be frozen, sliced up and digitized for all to study, but she also came with a detailed backstory. Potter is the subject of a profile published in the upcoming January 2019 issue of National Geographic. When Potter first proposed donating her body to science, she thought she would die shortly after. However, she went on to live for 15 more years. After her death, her cadaver was sliced into 27,000 pieces and scanned into a database that medical studies can study to learn about the human body.

Massive emerald

lion emerald

(Image credit: Gemfields)

Miners unearthed a massive emerald in Zambia. The ginormous crystal clocked in at a stunning 5,655 carats and weighed 2.5 pounds (1.1 kilograms), putting it on par with a human brain. The stone was named "Inkalamu," which translates to "lion" in the local Zambia Bemba language. It's likely, however, that it won't stay in its massive form forever, but instead, be divided into many hundreds of individual stones.

Star-shaped cataract

rosette cataract

(Image credit: BMJ Case Reports 2018)

A punch in the face left a man in India starry-eyed — literally. Doctors reported in a case report, published in November in the journal BMJ Case Reports, that the 36-year-old man developed a "rosette cataract" after being socked in the face. Cataracts are more common in older adults, and form when proteins in the lens of the eye clump together, blurring vision. However, physical trauma can also cause cataracts. Rosette, or star-shaped, cataracts are very rare. In the man's case, his cataract had five distinct "petals," though rosette cataracts with as many as 10 "petals" have been reported in the medical literature.

Shark getting ultrasound

A series of ultrasound images shows a shark embryo swimming from one uterus to another.

(Image credit: Ethology)

Human babies may be able to kick in the womb, but shark babies, it turns out, can leave the womb. A new study published in December describes how tawny nurse shark (Nebrius ferrugineus) embryos can swim from one of mom's uteruses to the other (it should be mentioned that these sharks have two uteruses). Weirder still, the baby sharks can also poke their baby sharks heads out of momma shark's cervix, to take a peek at the great blue sea. In the photo above, a researcher performs an ultrasound on a pregnant shark.

Aramaic incantation

The ancient incantation had illustrations of animals such as scorpions on the front and back (shown here).

(Image credit: Photo by Roberto Ceccacci/Courtesy of the Chicago-Tübingen Expedition to Zincirli)

About 2,800 years ago, a mysterious man named Rahim son of Shadadan inscribed an incantation on the wall of a stone cosmetics container in what may have been a shrine in Turkey. Archaeologists discovered the enigmatic Aramaic incantation, the oldest ever found, in August 2017. The inscription writes of the "seizure of a threatening creature," and describes using the blood of the devourer to cure someone of a condition called the fire, Live Science previously reported. Though it's not clear what the “fire” was, it's likely that the blood of the devourer was either ingested or smeared on the body of the afflicted. The words are accompanied by drawings of strange animals, including a fish, a centipede and a scorpion.

'Little Foot'

In a recent study, scientists compared the skull of Little Foot (shown here) with that of other hominins.

(Image credit: Photo courtesy of the University of the Witwatersrand)

One of the oldest human ancestors ever found was a little bit ape and a little bit human -- at least if its brain was any indication. The 3.67-million-year-old Australopithecus skeleton, dubbed "Little Foot," was found two decades ago in Sterkfontein Caves near Johannesburg. Relatively little was known about the tiny, hair, human ancestors' brains until researchers examined Little Foot's skull using micro Computed Tomography (CT) scanning. The stunning digital images reveal that Little Foot's brain was a little different from that of later Australopithecus skulls. In fact, its brain was half-human, half-ape, Live Science previously reported.