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Stunning Macro Photos of Enigmatic Creatures

By Michele Berger
Published: November 1, 2013

No, that rainbow-colored spiky-looking squiggle isn’t in your imagination or plucked from some mythical land. It’s actually a spoon worm, an annelid that lives on the seafloor. (Earthworms are part of the same classification.)

That you can see its strange, beautiful body up close is thanks to Ross Piper, a zoologist and entomologist. It’s one of more than 500 color illustrations in his new book, Animal Earth, released in early November.

“I’ve been fascinated by animals for as long as I can remember. Most people grow out of it, but I never did,” Piper said. So he took his interest a step further, using it to create a forum to show off some of the animal kingdom’s finest and strangest. We’re not just talking megafauna like elephants and rhinos — he briefly covers vertebrates — but rather those small, hidden creatures we humans rarely encounter.

“We just show people, even people with a casual interest in natural history and science, that the animals are just so fascinating in their diversity, not only in terms of how they look but also the way they live,” he added.

The close-up shots of animals from photographers like Alexander Semenov (whose jellyfish and sea slugs have been featured previously on Weather.com) and Arthur Anker really draw you in. Once there, there’s the chance for as much or as little learning as you please. Animal Earth is broken down by what Piper calls lineage, with number of known species, habitat, size range and much more for each. If all that seems too science-heavy, there are plenty of full-spread images to keep the pages turning, like the macro starfish tube feet or the robber fly with its gigantic orange eyes.

“We’re the only species that can marvel at and appreciate our fellow animals,” Piper said. “Far from being above nature, we’re just another part of it, and we’re utterly dependent on the other creatures that surround us.” Marvel away.

The slideshow above offers some of these enigmatic creatures. Below, a slideshow of macro coral and other interesting animals. 

MORE: Underwater Life of the White Sea (PHOTOS)

Russian photographer Alexander Semenov captures a close-up image of an unidentified starfish. (Alexander Semenov)

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