A swarm of rainbow-colored starfish devours a sea lion corpse on the seabed

This stunning shot of a dead California sea lion covered in colorful bat stars was recently declared the winner of a major wildlife photography award. (Image credit: David Slater)

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An award-winning photographer captured the somber moment when dozens of colorful starfish began to devour a lifeless sea lion on the California seabed.

Wildlife photographer David Slater captured the haunting photo in the shallow waters of Monterey Bay. The dead sea lion and its compatriots swimming in the background are most likely California sea lions (Zalophus californianus), but it could also be Steller sea lions (Eumetopias jubatus), based on the geographical ranges of the two species. Starfish are all bats (Patiria miniata), scavenging starfish available in a wide range of colors. Bat stars play a key role in recycling the sea lion for energy and nutrients, returning its remains to the marine food web.

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