Grey Seals
© Mark William Kirkland | Shutterstock

Stunning images and strange stories – from frilled sharks to clapping seals and more

By: Clare Fischer
Date posted: 26 March 2020

For most of us, images from the deep ocean are as close as we’ll come to really understanding what goes on beneath the waves – from stalking sharks to clapping seals it’s all happening away from human eyes…..except those of the lucky photographers who happen to be in the right place at the right time!

He's behind you
© Anthony N Petrovich/Comedy Wildlife Photo Awards

For most of us, images from the deep ocean are as close as we’ll come to really understanding what goes on beneath the waves

Manates
© NOAA | Unsplash

When nature photographer, Anthony N Petrovich, was trying to photograph tiger sharks in the Bahamas, crevalle jacks kept getting in the way of a good shot, but when he turned the camera on the jacks themselves, he found a shark doing some photobombing! The image resulted in Anthony becoming one of the finalists in the 2019 Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards with “He’s right behind me isn’t he?”

There aren’t many marine creatures that can be described as cuddly, but maybe the manatee can. Large, slow moving and just a little bit ugly, all manatees are listed as vulnerable or endangered on the IUCN Red List. These mesmerising creatures have an almost teddy-bear quality about them and look as if they need a big hug - which they do as populations are expected to decline by as much as 30% in the next 20 years. Caught in trawling nets and hunted for their meat in West Africa, these ocean herbivores need all the help they can get.

How do grey seals make a shotgun-like sound when under the water? Scientists long thought they it might have been with their mouths, but nobody had seen it happening. That is until Dr Ben Burville caught on film a wild grey seal ‘clapping’ off the coast of the Farne Islands. The seal was filmed striking its flippers together to scare off other nearby males as he homed in on potential female partners. Clearly giving himself a round of applause for being a strong healthy male!

It’s perhaps hard to believe that in the deepest, darkest depths of the ocean there resides a living fossil. Near Threatened on the IUCN Red List, the frilled shark’s closest relatives are now extinct. It belongs to a group of sharks that have been around for 95 million years! This beauty – well it’s pretty grim to look at actually– is rarely seen alive. An eel-like body, six pairs of frilly gills (hence the name), it can eat prey as big as half its size in one gulp. With a gestation period that could be as long as three and a half years, the biggest threat to these slow reproducers are bycatch from deep-set gill nets.

If you’re a member of MCS you can read more about these fascinating species in the latest edition of the MCS members magazine, Marine Conservation. You’ll also be able to read about the work MCS has done over the last two decades in Scotland, meet Ocean Ambassador, Lizzie Daly, find out about what needs to be done for post-Brexit fisheries and see why a Russian artist may never be bettered when it comes to capturing the wildest of seas, among a heap of other good reads.

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