Top 10 Nature Photos of 2018: Penguins, Sharks, and a Punk-Rock Turtle

Our most popular Instagram posts showcase creatures that inspire vital conservation work around the world

Top 10 Nature Photos of 2018: Penguins, Sharks, and a Punk-Rock Turtle

At Pew, our conservation efforts cover many visually stunning places and species, and sharing images of those locations and animals often helps inspire action to safeguard them. Below are our 10 most popular Instagram posts of 2018, showcasing conservation milestones, setbacks, and simply wondrous moments.

To share in our visual storytelling in real time, follow @PewEnvironment on Instagram.

1. Baby Shark

For catsharks, deep-sea corals make for an ideal nursery. A National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration expedition captured this catshark embryo wiggling inside its egg case off Puerto Rico’s Desecheo Island.

Not far away, the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council designated 21 deep-sea coral hot spots in the Gulf of Mexico last year—a major milestone in protecting these ancient ecosystems.

2. Penguin on an mission

This Adélie penguin in East Antarctica waddled away with second place among our most popular posts of the year.

While the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources—the multinational body tasked with preserving biodiversity in the Southern Ocean—failed to establish protections for this penguin’s home, Pew continues to work for safeguards of vital marine areas in the region. This year, the commission will consider a proposal to protect the waters surrounding parts of the Antarctic Peninsula.

3. Shark Week Spotlight

Coming in hot in third place is Monkey, a famously lively male great white shark photographed in the waters of Guadalupe Island, off Mexico’s Baja California Peninsula.

We celebrated Shark Week with a takeover from photographer George Probst, whose interactions with great whites helped persuade him of the need to protect the imperiled creatures.

Find more of Probst’s stunning photos on Instagram.

4. Punk-rock turtle

The Mary River turtle—those rebellious tufts are actually algae—was recently added to the Zoological Society of London’s list of most vulnerable reptiles. Photographer Chris Van Wyk captured this one chilling out in (where else?) Australia’s Mary River basin.

5. Penguin colony decline

Scientists announced in August that the planet’s largest colony of king penguins has declined by nearly 90 percent in the past 30 years.

Establishing additional marine protected areas around the world could help ecosystems become more resilient to changes in climate.

6. Deep dive with whales

For our Earth Day post, Pew marine fellow Regina Eisert took us up close and personal with playful young Type C killer whales.

Her team captured the mesmerizing footage while on a research trip to Antarctica’s Ross Sea. Type C killer whales migrate thousands of miles between subtropical regions and Antarctica, where experts believe they come to feed.

7. Arctic food web

Arctic cod are at the heart of the complex Arctic food web, which sustains wildlife from seabirds to polar bears. A multinational agreement, signed in October, prevents unregulated fishing in the high seas of the Central Arctic Ocean for at least 16 years, offering critical protections for the animals and Indigenous communities that rely on this vast ecosystem.

8. California ends use of drift gillnets

In a huge win for Pacific marine life, the California Legislature voted to end the use of harmful drift gillnets by the swordfish fleet. The Golden State was the last to allow the destructive practice, which led to the entanglement, injury, and sometimes death of whales, porpoises, sea turtles, and other wildlife.

9. Deep-sea spectacle

This glowing jelly fish was spotted by the crew of the exploration vessel Nautilus­, a project led by deep-sea explorer Robert Ballard off the Revillagigedo Archipelago near Mexico’s Baja California Peninsula. The area is home to Revillagigedo National Park—the country’s largest fully protected marine reserve—which celebrated its first anniversary in November.

10. Shark stunner

This thresher shark swam into the 10th slot with its mesmerizing tail and grace. It uses its exceptionally long tail to whip prey, stunning it before feeding.

Photographer and videographer Steve De Neef nabbed this footage in the Philippines.

For years, Pew has worked around the world to help countries establish shark sanctuaries and otherwise protect these remarkable animals. The Philippines is home to more than 200 species of sharks and rays, which are a main draw for the dive tourism that helps boost local communities throughout the country.

Join Pew Environment on Instagram for more.

Tom Dillon leads The Pew Charitable Trusts’ international conservation work.