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Stunning Photos Reveal The Secret Lives Of Sea Creatures

<p>Richard Carey/UPY 2016</p>

From the land, the ocean may seem mostly lifeless, but look under the surface and you'll find up to 80 percent of life on Earth. Now, thanks to a recent photography contest, you can catch a stunning glimpse of this hidden world.

This month, the U.K.-based Underwater Photographer of the Year Contest announced its 2016 winners, representing shutterbugs from over 50 different countries.

Three Pillars - Practice, Patience & Luck!Pier Mane/UPY 2016

Three Pillars - Practice, Patience & Luck! | Pier Mane/UPY 2016

While the overall title ended up going to Italian photographer Davide Lopresti for his shot of a spiny seahorse titled "Gold," each of the finalists' photos serves as a surprisingly intimate tribute to the creatures living in our seas.

GoldDavide Lopresti/UPY 2016

Gold | Davide Lopresti/UPY 2016

"It was astounding and humbling seeing the quality," said contest judge Alex Mustard in a statement. "Every single image that placed is an amazing moment from the underwater world."

Millions of CrabsRui Guerra/UPY 2016

Millions of Crabs | Rui Guerra/UPY 2016

According to Lopresti, he took his award-winning shot to celebrate seahorses living in now-protected parts of the Mediterranean once ravaged by destructive fishing methods.

The Majestic Purple DamePier Mane

The Majestic Purple Dame | Pier Mane

"Over the years the Mediterranean's population of seahorses has drastically reduced. Their numbers have only recovered thanks to public awareness and a significant restocking campaign," wrote Lopresti in a statement. "This has allowed vulnerable and delicate creatures, like seahorses, to return."

LagoonGreg Lecoeur/UPY 2016

Lagoon | Greg Lecoeur/UPY 2016

Check out more of the winning photographs below or click here to learn how you can help protect these magnificent creatures.

Pilot WhalesGreg Lecoeur

Pilot Whales | Greg Lecoeur

Planktonic PredatorGeorge Stoyle

Planktonic Predator | George Stoyle

Hello Give Us a KissSara Bowring

Hello Give Us a Kiss | Sara Bowring