Swarm of rainbow-colored starfish devour sea lion corpse under the sea

This stunning photo of a dead California sea lion covered in colorful bat stars was recently announced as the winner of a wildlife photography grand prize. (Image credit: David Slater)

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An award-winning photographer has captured the grim moment when dozens of colorful starfish began to devour a lifeless sea lion on the seafloor in California.

Wildlife photographer David Slater captured the eerie photo in the shallow waters of Monterey Bay. The dead sea lion and its compatriots swimming in the background are likely California sea lions (Zalophus californianus), but can also be Steller’s sea lions (eumetopias jubatus), based on the geographic distribution of the two species. The starfish are all bat stars (miniata patria), collecting starfish that come in a wide range of colors. Bat stars play a key role in recycling the sea lion into energy and nutrients, returning its remains to the marine food web.

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