Aquatic Life Winner: 'Berg Buffet' by <a href="" rel="noopener" target="_blank">Greg Lecoeur</a>
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Aquatic Life Winner: 'Berg Buffet' by Greg Lecoeur

© Greg Lecoeur. All rights reserved. These images originally appeared on bioGraphic, an online magazine about science and sustainability and the official media sponsor for the California Academy of Sciences' BigPicture: Natural World Photography Competition.

Photo Location: Antarctic Peninsula

Artist Statement: French photographer Greg Lecouer braved frigid waters to catch this rare glimpse of life below Antarctic ice, where he encountered a crew of crabeater seals (Lobodon carcinophaga). Clumsy and laborious on land, crabeater seals are elegant and agile swimmers that spend their entire lives in the pack ice zone surrounding the frozen continent.

Buoyed by polar currents, icebergs calve off mainland glaciers, carrying minerals and nutrients from land into the ocean. Once sea bound, the icebergs slowly melt, releasing critical nutrients in their wake and providing seals with both food and shelter. The fertilized waters prompt a bloom of phytoplankton that attracts krill—which, despite the crabeaters’ name, is a favorite meal of the seals.