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100 Best Science Photos of 2018

Cute aye-aye

aye-aye tonks

(Image credit: Denver Zoo)

This squirrel-size bundle of wiry fur, beady eyes and freakishly scraggly claws, is, sort of, cute, right? She's distinct (and endangered), we'll give her that. The little aye-aye (Daubentonia madagascariensis), named Tonks

Gator eats gator

(Image credit: Brad Streets/Caters News)

A gator's gotta eat. And sometimes, that means eating another gator. Texas photographer Brad Streets spotted the cannibalism-in-action this summer at a state park. Experts told Live Science that alligator cannibalism isn't at all unusual. For a large gator, a small one might be the perfect snack.

Alien wasp pupae

(Image credit: Photo: Georg Oleschinski/Rendering: Thomas van de Kamp)

This year, scientists found four tiny surprises hiding out inside fossilized fly pupae dating to the Paleogene period (about 65 million to 23 million years ago): four parasitic wasps. These wasps lay their eggs inside developing flies, using their host as an all-you-can-eat buffet. In most cases, the wasps consume the entire fly, before dying and becoming fossilized while still inside the fly's chrysalis shells.

Starving orca


(Image credit: Katy Foster/NOAA Fisheries Permit No. 18786-03)

In one of the sadder animal stories of the year, an endangered killer whale (Orcinus orca), named J50 or Scarlet (and shown here), captured our hearts as we rooted for her to survive starvation and subsequent illness. Officials with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration tried several methods to save her, feeding her salmon and injecting the orca with antibiotics. Even so, toward the end of September, after not seeing J50 for weeks, officials declared the little one dead.

Hurricane Florence eye

Hurricane Florence's eye is seen from the ISS.

(Image credit: ESA/NASA–A. Gerst)

This beautifully still and quiet storm eye belies the havoc Hurricane Florence wreaked across the southeastern U.S. in September. And while the storm was still raging, packing Category-1 wind speeds, scientists calculated how much climate change nudged this storm into the monster it became. Because of climate change, they found, Hurricane Florence would grow about 50 miles (80 kilometers) larger and dump 50 percent more rain over a period from Sept. 11 to Sept. 16 than it would have in a world before climate change.

Alien jellyfish

Lion's mane jellyfish

(Image credit: Eve Dickinson)

A family on New Zealand's North Island came upon what appeared to be a creature disguising itself as a Jell-O mold. But, alas, this blob with its gelatinous grape-colored center, was not for eating. Rather, the family had spotted an enormous lion's mane jellyfish (Cyanea capillata). The lion's mane is the largest jellyfish species, with a bell that can grow up to 7 feet (2.1 meters) across and a thick mop of hair-like tentacles that reach nearly 120 feet (36.6 meters) long, according to the nonprofit Oceana.

Pufferfish art

(Image credit: BIOSPHOTO/Alamy)

This fish may be the greatest and hardest-working fish on Earth (you gotta watch the video): When it's time to find a mate, male Japanese pufferfish in the Torquigener genus spend seven days, 24 hours each day, sculpting a complex but ultimately fleeting work of art into the sandy seafloor. And they do it al by wiggling their fins to create intricate ridges and valleys. In the end, if the male is chosen by the female, she will lay her eggs at the center of this sandy design.

Thor's well

Where does all the water go that seems to get sucked into Thor's Well along the Oregon coast.

(Image credit: Brad DeWald)

Dallas resident Brad DeWald posted an image on Reddit showing a seemingly impossible phenomenon: an ocean draining straight into the underworld. Of course, this is somewhat of an illusion, albeit a totally gorgeous one. Called Thor's Well, at this spot off the coast of Oregon, there’s a 20-foot-deep (6 meters) chasm where, just before and after high tide, frothy waves shoot out of the hole and then drain back down. For most of the time, the "well" is either empty or completely covered by water.

Nikon small world

(Image credit: Courtesy of Nikon Small World)

If only birth were so graceful and smooth for humans as it appears to be for this water flea. Photographer Wim van Egmond captured a glorious video of a wee see-through daphnia, also called a water flea, as the mom-to-be expels a wriggling, googly-eyed larva into the surrounding water. And just seconds later, the newborn darts away. This footage earned Van Egmond a top spot in the annual 2018 Nikon Small World in Motion contest.

Moth drinks bird tears

A moth laps up the tears of this black-chinned antbird in the Amazon.

(Image credit: Leandro João Carneiro de Lima Moraes)

Somewhere in the Brazilian Amazon, this moth is literally drinking the tears out of a bird's eye in the dead of night. Pretty metal, right? In fact, tear drinking is common enough in biology that it has a name: lachryphagy. For the tear-hungry insects, it's a common way for them to supplement their diets with sodium and even some protein, according to researchers. However, drinking the tears of birds is rarer than, say, sipping on crocodile or turtle tears, according to Leandro João Carneiro de Lima Moraes, a biologist at the National Institute of Amazonia Research in Brazil who filmed the moth-on-bird action while doing fieldwork in the central Amazon. The reason is pretty simple: birds are too fast, so it's best to approach them at night, when they're in a more torpid state.