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Justin Hofman's stunning photographs of southern right whales showcase their beauty and gentlenessa€”and their enormity. Hofman has followed right whales for years now, but the marine giants continue to surprise him."At one point, we were on SCUBA [self-contained underwater breathing apparatus], sitting on the bottom next to the mother whale.
A cheeky fox rests on a car in London and a bear explores a backyard in a new collection of urban wildlife around the globe. Southeast Asia's bearcat has a movie-theater aroma, but it's not the only animal that smells like snack foods. An abundance of shallow reefs have made the British Virgin Islands a scuba diver's paradise—and a boat captain's nightmare. Divers and fish hover over the remains of a ship that broke up on one of the many shallow reefs around the Cayman Islands, West Indies. A diver explores the wreckage of a Japanese World War II fighter plane near the town of Rabaul in Papua New Guinea. The rusted hulk of a shipwreck sits in shallow water off Tubbataha Reef in the Philippines.
A gold chalice is flanked by an amphora (left) and a two-handled cup called a kylix (right) amid the wreckage of an ancient merchant vessel in the Mediterranean Sea.
Centuries of heavy trans-Atlantic maritime traffic has littered North America's coastal waters with unfortunate ships like this small vessel near the Bahamas. A 520-million-year-old fossil arthropod known as a fuxianhuiid literally shoveled food in its mouth.
For most animals, the rules of anatomy are pretty straightforward: head and brain at the very top and legs at the bottom. Called a fuxianhuiid, this common ancestor of modern arthropods—insects, spiders, and sea creatures like lobsters—has some pretty bizarre traits—its legs are under its mouth, and its spine extends far above its brain. The find, published earlier this week in the journal Nature, is one of the oldest animal fossils ever discovered, said lead researcher Javier Ortega-Hernandez, of the University of Cambridge in the U.K. Scientists knew that fuxianhuiids (pronounced foo-see-an-who-eeds) existed from previous excavations in China’s Yunnan Province (map). The newfound fuxianhuiid specimens, however, were fossilized in an unusual position that preserved the arrangement of their soft bodies. A closer examination of the fossils revealed that the fuxianhuiids had legs directly under their mouths that they used to literally shovel food into their mouths on their seafloor habitat. Ortega-Hernandez said that these legs are quite possibly the earliest examples of limbs used for eating—though their existence has been controversial, since previous fuxianhuiid fossils did not clearly show these limbs. Another unusual find from the fuxianhuiid fossils is that a small piece of neural cord protruded from their brains—making the species the oldest example of a nervous system that stretches out above the head. Getting a clear look at the fuxianhuiid head is important, since evolutionary biologists frequently use the head to determine the closest relative of an unknown arthropod species. If you look at modern insects and crustaceans, it seems like fuxianhuiid features have disappeared over the course of 520 million years. It was the planet’s experimental period, like a teenager flitting between fashion fads, trying to find himself. That’s why fuxianhuiids, in all of their weirdness, provide valuable insights into the ancestors of not just of arthropods, but of all animals, Ortega-Hernandez said.

National Geographic VoicesResearchers, conservationists, and others around the world share stories and commentary on the National Geographic Society's conversation platform Voices. Society Field Inspection 2016: Gulf of CaliforniaDescribed by Jacques Cousteau as the "aquarium of the world," the Gulf of California in Mexico is threatened by coastal development, climate change, and other human activities.
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Two years after being discovered deep in a South African cave, the 1,500 fossils excavated during the Rising Star Expedition have been identified as belonging to a previously unknown early human relative that National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence Lee Berger and team have named Homo naledi.
With at least 15 individuals of all ages and both sexes represented, the find adds an unprecedented amount of information to our understanding of early human evolution in Africa.
In addition, the absence of any other animal remains or large debris in the fossil chamber strongly suggests that these non-human beings intentionally deposited their dead within this cave.
Cory Richards and his two fellow climbers endured hurricane-force winds and temperatures of minus 50°F as they struggled to reach the summit of Gasherbrum II. A jaguar on the hunt trips a camera trap at a spot frequented by piglike peccaries, a favorite prey. Seeing her 14-year-old daughter laughing and twirling in Tokyo's Mori Tower was the most poignant moment for Ratledge during a family trip. A quarter million miles from home, astronaut James Irwin salutes the flag and the achievement of the Apollo 15 mission of 1971, the fourth manned journey to the moon. STREPTOCOCCUSA colorized electron microscope image captures delicate chains of streptococcus in a laboratory sample. Two men lean into a blizzard to chop ice for drinking water, an essential daily chore during a three-year Australian-sponsored scientific expedition to Antarctica from 1911 to 1914.
MOUTH MICROBESThe human mouth hosts a panoply of microbes, some taking up residence on the mouth lining (blue) within days after birth. United States—Like a spaceship gearing up to lift off, a carnival ride throws off orbs of light in this panoramic time exposure.
This chunk of Antarctic ice, rising some 60 feet, greeted Smart and her mother when they toured the continent aboard a Russian icebreaker. A fiery glow in the sky over Yasuní, revealed in a long exposure, comes from the flares of oil wells burning off gas.
They got their name because early hunters marked them as the "right" whale to kill.Southern right whales are native to the temperate waters of the Southern Hemisphere. She was like a blubbery tripod on the sandy bottom," Hofman said."We sat there and watched for several minutes to be sure she wasn't disturbed, then swam closer for photographs," he continued. One scientist says the reef has the most amazing animals shea€™s ever seen on an expedition.
The waters around Rabaul, which was a Japanese stronghold during the war, are strewn with the broken remains of both Allied and Axis warships and aircraft.
Covering more than 81,000 acres (32,000 hectares) in the heavily trafficked Sulu Sea, shallow Tubbataha has scuttled more than its share of vessels.
Here, divers explore the coral-encrusted remains of the British Carnatic, which sunk in September 1869 after running aground near Gubal Island. The 50-foot (15-meter) ship was laden with valuables and commodities when it sank some 3,400 years ago near Turkey.

But a 520 million-year-old fossil animal recently discovered in southern China breaks both of these rules.
Look more closely, however, and Ortega-Hernandez said that the forces of natural selection have simply altered these structures, not eliminated them. Some of the best Cambrian fossils have been found in the Yunnan Province and Canada‘s Burgess Shale.
He and his team, which includes scientists from Yunnan University in China, are currently analyzing other finds from the area, hoping to tease out more of what Cambrian life was like as a whole. Posters and commenters are required to observe National Geographic's community rules and other terms of service.
To learn firsthand what's going on in and around this marine treasure of global importance, the National Geographic Society sent its top scientists and officials to the region in January 2016. To the Waorani, one of the native groups in this area, jaguars are ancestral spirits that visit shamans in dreams to tell them where game is plentiful in the forest.
They also provided dubious amusement: The crew would sneak up on penguins standing near cliffs and knock them into the ocean. They help us digest food and absorb nutrients, and they play a part in protecting our intestinal walls. Though some strep infections can be deadly, many strains are harmless—among the thousands of benign beings that make their home in our bodies.
Harmful species form biofilms, like the plaque that encourages tooth decay, or colonize the crevices between teeth and gums, causing periodontal disease. Photographer Carsten Peter documents their efforts to fathom the fiery workings of Nyiragongo volcano in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. With oil operations creeping ever closer, the possibility of destruction hangs heavily over the last untouched corner of this primeval forest.
The famed ocean liner, which sank after hitting an iceberg in April 1912, was discovered in 1985 near Newfoundland under some 12,500 feet (3,800 meters) of water. Built in 1931 as a luxury cruise liner, the Coolidge was converted to military use during World War II. They toured the desert islands off the southeastern coast of the Baja Peninsula and they listened to presentations by more than a dozen experts, including several whose Baja California research is funded by the Society. Oral probiotics designed to boost the population of species that outcompete pathogenic ones could help prevent or reverse dental disease. It sank in 1942 after inadvertently striking an American mine while approaching Espiritu Santo. The gulls may seem harmless, but they attack the whales by pecking at their skin, leaving gaping wounds that can kill calves.

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