You only have to glance to the Animal Kingdom to remind that sex is very natural. Out in the deep blue water, things can get a little weird, and the recent winners of the 2021 Ocean Art Contest nailed this in all its NSFW glory. First place and Best of Show Luc Rooman received the award for his shot “Snoeken” (see above), which depicts two lip-locked pikes seen during a night dive at the Domein Muisbroek site near Antwerp, Belgium. We all know how one emotional engagement may spill into another, even if the two were fighting rather than getting it on.
One of PT Hirschfield’s two prize-winning photographs in the Compact Behavior category shows two Bigbelly seahorses engaged in a pre-mating dance, in case you have ever wondered what mating seahorses look like (“Mating Seahorses”). These complex rituals can last many days, and the photographer was able to record the moment the female placed her eggs into the male’s pouch, which is rather spectacular. In a statement, Hirschfield stated, “It was amazing to finally tick this particular act of seahorse egg transfer (which lasted only a few brief moments) from my underwater photography Bucket List.”
They captured two mollusks mating in the Mornington Peninsula’s “Octopuses Garden” for their 3rd Place Compact Behavior entry, “Mating Southern Keeled Octopuses.” There are many pale octopus couples here, but this was the first time Hirschfield was able to photograph two of them together. They added in a statement, “It was also the first time I’ve ever observed octopuses mating with a shell between them.” “The male was perched atop the shell containing the female when I first saw them from afar.”
“I was curious as to what would happen if I approached the shell carefully. I took aback when I noticed the male copying my movements. When I got very close to the shell, the male climbed back up and put his hectocotylus mating arm into the waiting female below, giving me to get a very close and personal view of the action.” That is how we use our tools. Aside from the steamy encounters, the winning entries included some stunning images of the aquatic world in all its colorful, perplexing, and humorous glory.