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The power and beauty of nature: 2011's most stunning images

From storms to volcanos, tigers to flowers, the best nature photos of the year

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A polar bear swims underwater in the St-Felicien Wildlife Zoo in St-Felicien, Quebec October 31, 2011.

Mathieu Belanger/REUTERS/Mathieu Belanger/REUTERS

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Luxury houses teeter on the edge after landslides in Redcliffs near Christchurch on February 27, 2011, after a 6.3 earthquake devastated New Zealand's second city and surrounding towns on February 22.

Torsten Blackwood/AFP/Getty Images/Torsten Blackwood/AFP/Getty Images

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A meteor streaks though the night sky over the village of Kuklici, known for its hundreds of naturally formed stones which resemble human beings, near Kratovo, August 13, 2011.

Ognen Teofilovski/REUTERS/Ognen Teofilovski/REUTERS

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A butterfly hovers over a flower as smoke rises around the Lee Valley Recreational area in the Apache National Forest during back burn operations as the Wallow Fire continues to burn June 12, 2011 in Big Lake, Arizona.

Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images/Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

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A boy swims along the algae-filled coastline of Qingdao, Shandong province July 15, 2011.


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Aurora borealis, or northern lights, fill the sky on March 13, 2011 over Finnmark during the 1,000 km Finnmarksloepet, the world's northernmost sled dog race, in Finnmark county in northern Norway.

Tore Meek/AFP/Getty Images/Tore Meek/AFP/Getty Images

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Lightning strikes over the Puyehue volcano, over 800 km south of Santiago, Chile June 6, 2011.

Francisco Negroni/AP/Francisco Negroni/AP

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Two-year-old chimpanzee "Do Do" bottle feeds milk to "Aorn", a 60-day-old tiger cub, at the Samut Prakan Crocodile Farm and Zoo on the outskirts of Bangkok July 30, 2011.

Sukree Sukplang/REUTERS/Sukree Sukplang/REUTERS

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A sunflower field is seen in stormy weather near Donzere, southern France, August 5, 2011.

Pascal Rossignol/REUTERS/Pascal Rossignol/REUTERS

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Lesser flamingoes are pictured on September 30, 2011 at the Lake Natron at the foot of Ol Doinyo Lengai in Tanzania. Salmon-coloured clouds of flamingoes sweeping overhead is a common sight at east Africa's Rift Valley lakes, but the mounds of mud where they lay their eggs are found only here.

Tony Karumba/AFP/Getty Images/Tony Karumba/AFP/Getty Images

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A weed grows out of the dry cracked bed of O.C. Fisher Lake on July 25, 2011 in San Angelo, Texas. The 5,440 acre lake which was established to provide flood control and serve as a secondary drinking water source for San Angelo and the surrounding communities is now dry following an extended drought in the region.

Scott Olson/Getty Images/Scott Olson/Getty Images

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Raindrops are seen on roses during a memorial ceremony for Basque Socialist Party (PSE) politician Fernando Buesa Blanco on the eleventh anniversary of his assassination in Vitoria February 22, 2011.

Vincent West/REUTERS/Vincent West/REUTERS

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A cloud of ash billowing from Puyehue volcano near Osorno in southern Chile, 870 km south of Santiago, on June 5, 2011. Puyehue volcano erupted for the first time in half a century on June 4, 2011, prompting evacuations for 3,500 people as it sent a cloud of ash that reached Argentina.

Claudio Santana/AFP/Getty Images/Claudio Santana/AFP/Getty Images

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An Asian elephant sprays sand in its enclosure at the zoo in Karlsruhe July 7, 2011.

Alex Domanski/REUTERS/Alex Domanski/REUTERS

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Lightning strikes the CN Tower during a thunderstorm in Toronto May 29, 2011.

Mark Blinch/REUTERS/Mark Blinch/REUTERS

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A kangaroo stands on iron ore boulders near the port of Dampier in the Pilbara region of Western Australia April 19, 2011.

Daniel Munoz/REUTERS/Daniel Munoz/REUTERS

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A leopard attacks a forest guard at Prakash Nagar village near Salugara, on the outskirts of Siliguri, India July 19, 2011. The leopard strayed into the village area and mauled several villagers, including three guards, before being caught by forest officials. The leopard, which suffered injuries caused by knives and batons, died later in the evening at a veterinary center. The forest guard being attacked was injured.


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Researchers dressed in panda costumes put a panda cub into a basket before transferring it to a new living environment at the Hetaoping Research and Conservation Center for the Giant Panda in Wolong National Nature Reserve, Sichuan province February 20, 2011. Researchers wear panda costumes to ensure that the cub's environment is devoid of human influence, according to local media.

China Daily/REUTERS/China Daily/REUTERS

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A hawk attacks a rabbit during an annual traditional hunting competition near the village of Uzynagash outside Almaty, February 12, 2011. Kazakhstan's national sport of Sayat - or hunting with birds of prey - is popular in the Central Asian state.

Shamil Zhumatov/REUTERS/Shamil Zhumatov/REUTERS

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